A computer connected to the Internet is a powerful tool. It pipes countless resources right into our homes, and it puts anyone with even rudimentary skills within a few clicks of reading, viewing, or listening to anything from anywhere.
We can teach our kids online safety and we can keep close tabs to continue the training. Both approaches are valid, and both are very necessary.
With that in mind, we’re sharing 9 Internet Rules for Your Kids. They’re neither exhaustive nor foolproof, but they are great for getting the ball rolling and helping All Pro Dads take a serious look at what’s going on with our kids in cyberspace.
1. Be an Example
Research still affirms that parents are their kids’ #1 role model. So be a great example when it comes to technology. Do you check Facebook and Twitter at every stoplight? Do you let your phone monopolize time you could be interacting with the kids? Could they look at your screen history and know you practice what you preach?
2. Understand Online Reputation
Online reputation is a 21st-century reality. It’s a footprint that will follow our children the rest of their lives. This fact needs to be part of the ongoing conversation. Social media is the most popular online destination and whether it’s getting into college or getting a job, our footprint will affect it. The standard for how to engage with social media and what kids share has to be high.
Create rules for your children. Block all social media until you’re sure you and your kids are “on the same page.” Try some role-playing to practice acceptable responses to these situations.
3. Set Guidelines
Make sure your children know what they can and cannot view online. Chat rooms are usually never a good idea. Also, there is no circumstance where it is appropriate for a child to share personal information online. That includes address, phone number, or the school they attend. Contests are appealing—the promise of prizes gets our guard down (remember that new laptop YOU thought you were getting?). Make sure they run these things by you, every time.
4. Keep Communication Open
Make this very clear. If your child is not sure about something online, he should always run it through you first. Open communication is a must. If the kids ever feel even a little bit uncomfortable online, then it’s important to make sure mom and dad know about it. Then, dad or mom, don’t yell at them for telling you. Encourage open communication within the family. It’s like reaching out to hold a hand in a busy mall.
5. The Computer Stays in a Public Place
“Out of sight, out of mind” was never truer. Everything that happens online needs to be out in the open, period. Limit access to the kitchen or the family room. This helps your children to recognize you’re watching what they do onine.
6. Monitor Cell Phones Too
Remember that a cell phone is a computer too. A Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project noted that 78% of teens aged 12-17 have cell phones and more than half of those are smart phones. They’re using these phones to go online more often than their parents do. It’s tough to monitor these devices because they’re so portable, so we encourage parents to check out filtering software specific to phones. Remember, safety is a two-pronged initiative. “We can teach our kids online safety and we can keep close tabs to continue the training. Both approaches are valid, and both are very necessary.”
7. Be the Boss
Remain consistent and clear about guidelines, but don’t scare your children into keeping information from you. Make it clear that no online messages are ever private, and that all browsing history can be checked. No exceptions. Use an Internet filter. Then make sure you and mom are the only ones with the passwords. But remember, no filter is perfect. Think “redundant security systems”…a filter is just one piece of the protection puzzle.
8. Make Consequences for Misuse Stick
Be clear on the consequence for misuse of the Internet privilege. Don’t make the punishment exceed the crime, but ALWAYS follow through with 100% consistency. Clear rules, consistently applied, equal results. Use our Family Internet Contract with your kids as a great start.
9. Understand Cyber-Bullying
Cyber-bullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. By definition, cyber-bullying occurs among young people. When an adult is involved, it may meet the definition of cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking. That’s a crime that can have legal consequences and even involve jail time.
“One of the biggest Internet dangers is ____. I say that because ____.”