Digital safety and your kids
you are not always in control of what you see online.
It’s natural when you’re a parent to worry about your kids’ safety and want to wrap them up in cotton wool as much as possible. You can teach them how to take care of themselves outside the home, of course – but new digital technologies poses a whole different range of personal safety issues.
The reason parents get concerned is that while boundaries and rules can be discussed and set within a family, the individual is not always in control of what they see ( on the internet) or what they might receive ( via a mobile phone) . Digital technologies can bring to the surface addictive behavior (games online) which become difficult to deal with.
The answer is not to avoid the digital world (we would be doing our children a huge disservice) but to teach them how to manage it.
Here are the top three things you can do to equip them with the skills they need to stay safe digitally:
If your children are young enough set a precedence of going online together, make it a shared experience and do not use, technology as a babysitter. If you feel comfortable learning and developing internet skills together, your kids are more likely to tell you if they discover something inappropriate. Keep the computer in a communal area of your home so you can share and enjoy.
As your kids get older and more independent ensure your family is open to discussion and communication. Try to avoid saying ‘you mustn’t’, because often this just provokes greater interest and ‘basement’ activity
Use technologies to your advantage – ask that they use their phone to text you as they move from one location to another so that you know their whereabouts and that the phone becomes tool – teach by example; phones are not required in the bedroom, keep them charged in the kitchen and allow there to be a break from the constant need of keeping in touch or surfing.
While on the internet teach them to zip it lock it flag it if they come across inappropriate language, or sites,
Remember that while technology is the way forward it doesn’t preclude other family activities like playing a game, going for walks, the cinema etc It is important that technologies do not become the sole source of entertainment.
*Teach them to trust their instincts
The most important lesson you can give your child is that they should only do what they feel comfortable with. They always need to feel in control and not be easily led astray, bullied or maneuvered into awkward situations.
While boundaries and rules can prevent this from happening, there needs to be an understanding of the potential dangers. Discuss the consequences of bad practice.
Talk to your kids about social networks, cyber bullying, pesting, online games, chat rooms etc. Explain the potential dangers in an age appropriate, non threatening way (you’re not trying to scare them, just inform them).
Teach them to walk away or ask for help. Encourage your kids to trust their instincts.
*Help them develop their abilities
A child who is confident in themselves and knowledable about the good and bad aspects of digital technology will rarely be a victim of it. As parents we need to
create high potential in our children –a purposeful curiosity and enthusiasm in varied areas of life.
This means developing a child who is alert and interested / aware of their surroundings – there are some children who are naturally like this but the majority are not .
These are learned skills that create good self esteem and strong self preservation instincts.
If a child has a wide interest in many things they do not want to get in trouble or be harmed . They naturally want to succeed , have an empathy with their surroundings, friends and family.
Therefore when part of the digital experience they will move on if something is not appropriate or tries to burst their world. They are more likely to tell an adult if there is a problem or ask for help.
So as parents lets ensure the internet, mobile phones and other digital forms do not take over our thoughts and take up all our time but that instead we give our children a complete mix of experiences.