Preparing kids for the internet
How do we keep teens safe?
We asked readers to share their thoughts on how we can keep teens safe. Susan Nicholson shares her unique tips.
It's nice to think we can stop online nasties from getting to our kids, and in no way should we stop searching for and shutting down predatory sickos, but the reality is we need to equip our kids to identify and cope with what they will encounter.
All the usual basics for younger kids are good, computer in shared space, a safe search mode enacted, etc, but older kids and teens can be more computer and internet savvy than their parents and we need some tactics up our sleeves.
This is what worked for me.
1. Open dialogue: Right from the start all questions get a factual honest answer. If you expect it from your kids, model it to them. Build mutual trust.
2. Help your kids know the difference between the internet, media and reality. Build your kids up with self-esteem and self-belief.
3. I showed my teens the 'naked computer guy picture' and warned them if they didn't know the person they were talking to in real life, it was probably this guy.
4. The X in the red box on the right stops harassment immediately. It's no fun for trolls, trolling without an audience.
5. Make sure your kids know unconditionally that any time, anywhere, you will help them sort it out. I quickly became the 'non-overreactive' go-to parent for their friends too.
6. Discuss consent and the age and power issues surrounding it. Our kids need to know they can say no, and that others can too. They also need to know that an absence of no does not mean yes. This is important when you consider the content of what may be viewed on line.
If you ban things (especially the things their friends are doing), chances are they will do them anyway and they will learn how to be deceptive. Parents then lose the opportunity to guide their kids and the kids won't go to parents when something goes wrong.
This is what has worked for my family with teens growing up through the end of the dial-up era and into the super-fast broadband.
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