Children, particularly teens, most often will NOT volunteer information about their online activities. It is YOUR responsibility to ASK and DISCUSS.
The following are some tips for negotiating your way through your child’s relationship with the Internet.
1. Establish an online code of conduct. Tell them that whatever they think should not be said to a person’s face should also not be said online.
2. Establish consequences for bullying behavior. Make sure they know you will revoke phone and computer privileges if you discover they have humiliated or hurt someone online. Follow through.
3. Ask Your Kids if they Know Anyone Who Has been Cyberbullied. Sometimes kids will share their knowledge of others’ pain before admitted their own.
4. Tell Your Kids Not to Share Their Passwords. It is not uncommon for a child to log onto another child’s account to send embarrassing messages or begin rumors. Identity theft is a serious crime. Make sure your children know that their passwords are private and not to be shared with anyone other than their parents.
5. Monitor. Monitor. Monitor. See what they are posting, check their mobile messages, and let them know you are keeping an eye on their activities.
6. Tell Your Kids What to do if they are Harassed-Tell them not to respond or retaliate. They should block bullies immediately. Encourage them, even insist that they report bullying to you or to another adult whom they trust. Tell them not to delete the content of the harassing messages because persistent cyberbullying should be reported to the Internet provider, website, or law enforcement. The content can be used as evidence.
7. Remind them that all private information can be made public. Wall posts, intimate photos, private IMs, in-jokes, all can be cut, pasted, and sent ar0und. Tell them not to ever post anything they wouldn’t want their grandmother to see!
8. Talk to them about Internet predators. These conversations should be age appropriate. Even young children know what a “bad stranger” is. Let them know that not everyone on the Internet is safe to talk to. Once they are middle schoolers or teens, talk to them about sexual predators.
9. Even when they are in high school, teens need their parents. Remind them they are not to old to ask for your help.
10. Tell them that what they post is permanent. College admissions officers, future employers, future fiances, etc… are all privy to your child’s postings, no matter how old they may be.
11. Learn privacy settings and teach them to your child. While many young people can seamlessly navigate communicating online, they may not know how to disable anonymous comments, keep their posts private, or block and report users. Help your child to use social media in the smartest and safest way possible!
11. Texting has a language all its own. Familiarize yourself with the acronyms. LOL, JK, BRB, ATM, etc… Did you know ATM does not refer to the automatic teller machine? It means, “at the mall.”
These tips sound commonsensical, but they are important. Anger, hurt, and ugliness escalate at warp speed on the Internet and parents must be vigilant when it comes to their children’s safety online.
If you are concerned that your child may be a bully or is being bullied online, The Peace Center can help.