Who is responsible for keeping our kids safe online?
I posed this question on my Facebook page and most tended to agree that whilst there were other elements that all needed to contribute, ultimately the responsibility should lay with us, the parents.
Yes it is true that schools must play a role. They need to back up their anti-bullying polices with concrete processes to deal with situations when they arise. Parents need to feel confident that if something is brought to the attention of a school, then they have the means to handle it and come to a resolution that ultimately helps all involved. But punishing the bully and appeasing the victim does very little to solve the issue. Bringing a group of people to talk to our kids once a year about changing passwords and saying nice things online, also does little to allay their curiosity, their ‘selfie’ mindset and their often ‘act now, think later’ teen mentality.
Yes it is true we need to keep making tech sites and creators aware of the dangers their sites pose and demand better settings and safety measures. Many welcomed the changes to Ask.Fm that made anonymous users traceable and mades the reporting of bullies easier. But we also know that these measures alone do little to really teach our kids about how they are interacting online. More often than not, by the time the site comes to the attention of the parents, or the changes have been made, the kids have already moved on to the next online ‘hangout’.
Yes we need to keep hoping that governments will continue to legislate to keep inappropriate content away from the vulnerable eyes of our kids. I for one, would like hard core pornography something that is not accessible by default. Rather than have to try all manner of procedures to block it, I wish it were the other way around so that those that want it can get to it, but it is not automatically available when you turn on a screen. I may well be dreaming.
I am well aware therefore that the internet is a global phenomenon. It is not run by one government or one tech company. It is not easily legislated and policy’s are in no way created with the safety of our kids in mind. When 30% of all internet downloads are porn related, we know this not to be the case.
So, it looks like the onus is on us, the parents, to take on the role of keeping our kids safe. And here is why I believe this to be true:
I believe this to be true because no safety settings or blocks can ever guarantee our kids safety
I believe this to be true because kids know a lot of things about the technology and are often really smart at it. But they don’t have the emotional intellect and maturity to properly deal with the things they may see and do online.
I believe this to be true because as parents it is our role to do what we can to keep our kids safe. Bur we also need to do so in a way that builds their skills and their independence, knowing that we cannot possibly follow every update they make and keep an eye on every photo they post.
I believe this to be true because kids aren’t born knowing this stuff.
I believe this to be true because no one can give a child the guidance and the unconditional support that a parent can.
I believe this to be true because our kids are too precious to leave it to anyone else.
We need parents to learn what is out there so they have the knowledge to appropriately deal with challenges as they arise. We need parents to set time limits early to create good habits. We need parents to decide what sites and apps are suitable for their children based on their responsibility, development and maturity. We need parents to connect with their kids in real life so they know when things are not right. We need parents to encourage pursuits away from the screens. We need parents to be involved in communities, teams and our kids interests outside the home.
We need parents to take responsibility for their children’s safety online.
If you think the parents in your community could benefit from a greater understanding of what it means to parent children with technology and the online world, then please email me to organise a speaking event.
This Post Has 21 Comments
I think, not just with online, but all things, the parents need to parent. And we are fast becoming a nation where parents don’t want to make unpopular choices with their kids. Nice post.
Thanks Lydia, the old “need to be a parent before we are a friend” may need to apply!
Well said, Lydia. We don’t want to say no; we want to be their friends. But we have to be parents, first. LOVE.
As a teacher I really hope parents are reading this and thinking I do need to step up and be present in what is happening in my child’s life. As a parent we have strict rules about technology and have to keep up with what is available and the latest things out there because our 6 year old catches on very easily. But we don’t stick our heads in the sand we have public areas for internet use and family agreements with how we will use it.
Thanks Annaleis, I think making conscious decisions as to what works for you as a family is very important. And I hope some of your parents are reading it too!
Well said Martine.
I think we also as parents have a responsibility to actively foster a good relationship with our kids, where they can feel free to talk to us about the stuff they see online, and what to do if they come across something that they shouldn’t. I’m convinced that relationship can solve a lot of problems that legislation can’t
Oh that is so true Jess. Definitely having a strong connection in the real world will mean a greater chance of them coming to us with things they are concerned about online.
I have turned off WIFI on the iPads unless I am sitting with kids – because otherwise I have no idea what they might come across, even though we have all those ‘security’ settings 🙂
Thats a great idea Emily, particularly when they are young we can do what we need to do to protect them and their innocent minds.
Great post! We’ve put strategies in place to try and ensure control/moderation of our girls online activity, one of which is not having WiFi at home. By using a USB modem, the girls have to ask before they are able to use it and I can supervise what they’re doing while they’re online. It also means I don’t have to stress when they’re playing on their iPods as I know the only content on them has been downloaded under supervision. That said, kids are smart! Miss 10 hacked into the Portable Hotspot on my iPhone a few months back and used the connection to download Goosebumps eBooks!
Popping in via #teamIBOT
Kids are smart when it comes to this stuff….well the tech side of it all anyway! Once again it is important that you find something that works for you as a family.
As my kids are still little I haven’t had to worry about Internet safety yet, but it is something that I have thought about. Working with teens in high schools I know how savy they are, they can bypass most of the ‘controls’ that the school puts on their computers and I’m sure they can do it at home as well. I think communication and an open honest relationship with parents is definitely the key! Great post. Karen #teamIBOT
Absolutely Karen, they are pretty good at bypassing controls and settings etc. That is why I am so passionate about teaching them the skills to safely interact online and having an open relationship in the hope they will seek your advice when needed.
Great advice. My kids are too young to be surfing the net yet, but I am making sure I keep up to date with all of this information, so when they ready I can protect them as well as I can.
Thanks Renee…and trust me it wont be that far away!
Great post. it’s so important to model good computer use habits with our kids as well. I am very aware of how much screen time my daughter sees me having, as I work online from home and blog, and do freelance writing – I am pretty much on the computer every day and every evening and have to be very disciplined to turn away. I don’t want my daughter thinking that most of life happens online – very unhealthy attitude.
So many great points Martine. And thank you for introducing me to your modem – I think I’ll be getting one. But I do appreciate what you are saying: get all the security software etc etc, but also stay in touch and have a good relationship with your kids. It’s a two pronged approach.
I’m all for parents being more responsible. Engage, talk, connect, set boundaries and educate yourself – I think would be a good start. Thanks Martine, informative post.
Great post, Martine. My oldest is three, so we’re not at this stage yet, but I’m sure it’ll happen before I know it. Trying my best to keep up-to-date with technology – I remember when I was little and mum refused to learn how to program the VCR because it was too tricky, and I just laughed and thought I’d never be like that. I FEEL LIKE THAT.
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Very important post Martine. I know my kids love watching things on YouTube and we have had to become tough in policing what they can and can’t watch. Because it’s true, they don’t have the maturity to know what they should and shouldn’t watch. Parenting is becoming more and more complicated all the time….
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