As soon as your children start tapping on the keyboard, that’s the time you should begin your online parenting. You’ll be happy to know that parenting online isn’t much different than parenting your child when they aren’t in front of a keyboard.
Much like the food pyramid that helps guide our knowledge of a healthy diet, this list of 12 staples is what every parent needs to know to help ensure their child develops healthy technological habits:
- Recognize that placing the computer in a central location of your home isn’t enough. Keeping your kids safe online goes far beyond where the computer is. Just because you can see your child doesn’t mean what they see is okay.
- Stay ahead of the curve. Kids typically know more than their parents about technology, but this dynamic needs to change. There are great, free resources available such as YoursphereForParents that will help keep you up-to-date and informed.
- Protect their privacy. You’ll be able to do this by understanding what the laws are related to your child’s privacy online. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is broken, and your child’s privacy is put at risk every time they join a website and pretend to be 13 years of age or over.
- Scrutinize a website your child wants to visit, or is visiting. Just as you would the club or team they want to join, ask yourself: will my child benefit from this content? What are the values of the corporation? Is this really an age-appropriate place for my child? Remember, just because you’re a member of an adult social network, doesn’t mean it’s okay for your child to be.
- Do you meet the parents of your children’s friends? Then be sure to look beyond the homepage or first two pages of the websites your child spends time on. Click 7 – 10 pages deep. You need to know what content and culture your child is immersed in, and what they’ll be exposed to.
- Moderation and setting limits is key. Screen time, or as we say in my house: “TV time”, “Yoursphere.com time”, or “Wii time”, is limited. Ask your child to make a choice on how they’d like to spend their screen time after they’ve had a healthy dose of physical activity.
- Make it easy for your children to follow the rules. Children want to do what’s right; they want to make their parents happy. Activate the parental controls on your computer or their cell phone to automatically log them off after your specified period of time. This makes it easy for them to do the right thing.
- Technology is a privilege, not a right. Just because “everyone else gets to” doesn’t mean “they get to”. As I say to my children all the time, “Dad and I care about you, not about what your friends get to have.” Technology should be rewarded after homework, chores and other family responsibilities are met.
- Share the financial responsibility. Our children need to understand we work hard for the technology we provide them. Whether it’s their cell phone, the Internet service, or their computer, they can save allowance to help fund the technology. Plus, you’ll be instilling some responsibility.
- Rules and consequences. Have your children sign an agreement with you showing that they understand technology shouldn’t be abused. Whether it’s sending inappropriate text messages or signing up for a site that you’ve banned, they need to know that you will follow through and there will be consequences.
- Teach kindness. It’s so easy for children to be mean to each other online. The key to a healthy experience is a positive one. Teach your kids to “say it out loud” before they post, and remind them: “if you wouldn’t say it to a friend’s face, then don’t say it online.”