This topic scares me a bit. The internet is a big, intangible world, with people, forces and information I can’t control. I work best in the tangible- teach the kids how to make their beds, cook, read, do homework. But the internet? It feels different to me. Faster, bigger, scarier. Easier to lose a grip on.
But coming to my rescue, the American Academy of Pediatrics put out talking points that made this whole “parenting and the internet,” a lot more concrete for me.
The digital world is just another environment, where children can do in a virtual (digital) environment the same things that they have always done- both good and bad. Parents have the same duties regarding all environments: teaching kindness, setting limits (kids need and want them), knowing where their children are going, what they will be doing, and with whom, etc. Would you let your child go out into the real world without asking them about their plans?
I LOVE this quote. The internet is just another environment, like school, home, work, the playground. You better believe most parents set strict rules on the usual environments: “Be home at 3:00 sharp! Who is going to be at this party? Text me when you get there. Curfew is 10 pm. Be kind. Share. Treat others the way you want to be treated.” On and on we go.
But how often do we ask about online time? Do we teach them about kindness? What not to post on Facebook? What is an appropriate image to share on Instagram? Give them a time limit? How much information to give out? That future employers and colleges can see what they’re posting? (Or that they specifically look on their profiles when they’re looking to hire?) Online safety? Red flags for predators?
Hmmmm. With my growing tweens, I know I’ve got some teaching to do.
Today I wanted to focus on giving out too much information. Recent research shows that almost 50% of teens have revealed personal information, such as physical descriptions or photos, to strangers. (Greenfield 2015). Strangers!!! Many teens send out group messages to all of their Facebook friends (averaging about 500 people) and then who knows where it goes from there?
There is no such thing as privacy on the internet. Even on Snapchat. Yes, settings can be changed, parental control can be managed, but the most effective way to prevent this is to teach your kids. They need help navigating this new environment.
This year, Harvard rescinded ten admission acceptances to students who were posting obscene memes in their private Facebook group. Can you imagine? Ivy league achievements stripped away because of social media habits. Our kids need to know: what they do now, will affect their future.
In Digital Kids, by Dr. Marting Kutscher, he gives some guidelines for your kids. Before they send or post any information, they should ask themselves:
- Will this image/information get me or someone else in trouble?
- Do I have consent to tag the person in the photo?
- Will this image/information cause drama?
- Do I remember that it might get passed on to anyone?
- Would my grandmother approve of me sending it?
- How will I feel a year from now?
- Would I say this to the person’s face?
- Am I sending this to true friends, or are they just added to my “friends” list so I can seem more popular. Would they stand by me if something went wrong?
Sit down with your kids this week. Begin your parenting journey in this digital environment. Teach them about appropriate things to share. Common Sense Media is a great resource for more information.