We are often talking about all the things parents should be doing to help keep their kids safe online. We encourage parents to actively learn about the technology. We insist on privacy settings, security software and password protection. We insist on time limits, we prevent them from opening accounts on certain sites and we take devices at night to encourage disconnection.
All of these things are useful strategies to help make our kids responsible online citizens and to stay safe and healthy, both physically, emotionally and socially.
But what about the things we shouldnt be doing as parents? Here is my list of things to avoid doing with your kids online for reasons of safety, privacy or simply to save you both from embarrassment.
1. Do not comment on everything
Every time you child puts up an update or uploads a picture you do not have to comment every single time. Sure there is nothing wrong with letting them know you are present, but just as you don’t sit in their room and ‘hang out’ with their friends when they come for a play, you don’t need to hangout with them all the time online either.
2. Do not have personal conversations that can wait until they get home
You dont need to talk to them about personal or family matters online, or tell them off for their messy room or remind them its their turn to scrub the toilet. Bringing up any emotional or ‘tuchy’ subjects on ine is also not going to win you any brownie points. Assuming your kids are living with you, most personal conversations can wait until you see each other or until you can pick up the phone.
3. Do not think because you are their Facebook friend you have them covered
Teach them how to use all social networking sites responsibly from a young age. Many kids know how to block updates from their parents (or aunties!) and so you may not always be seeing everything they write. Insisting on being their friend on Facebook or having access to their password may be a good strategy, as long as you realise that is unlikely to be the only social networking site they are playing in and most kids have a number of ifferent sites on the go at once. Many are deliberately using other sites unbeknownst to their parents to avoid their family members seeing everything they do.
4. Do not rely on spying on them
Almost every day a new site, app or social network is created giving kids many many options to connect with their mates and others online. Rather than try and keep tabs on every account they have or read every online conversation they have or store every password they create, it is better to have open communication away from the online world that teaches them how to use all sites responsibly. When kids are young and beginning to dabble in social media it is a lot easier to keep an eye on everything they do and we can more easily help guide them in the ways to behave online. As they get older however, they will have the knowledge and ability to insist on greater privacy, and thus we as parents need to have faith that our good teaching early will see them in good stead to handle their online interactions.
So sure, be present, be aware and keep a good eye from afar, but remember the greatest connections you can have with your kids is the open communication of the real life world.