Most of us are fairly certain we know where our kids are, who they’re spending time with and what they’ve got planned for the afternoon, all without deploying a drone with a camera. The same innate level of parent radar doesn’t extend to the digital world, where we want to offer the same protection, but we can’t because even our youngest children might understand the technology on a new Acer Laptop better than an ancient Gen X-er born in 1979. We know we have to take precautions to keep the next generation protected online, but the industry is moving at light speed and we’re left on the outside looking-in.
The reality is kids today have only ever lived in a world that has technology woven from corner to corner. Their Samsung S5 helps build their relationships, WiFi is a requirement for successful completion of homework and afternoon cartoons now stream on Netflix. Is it necessary for you to maintain a log with their passwords for all social media accounts, email accounts and television streaming services and apps? How do you keep track of which rules to follow and enforce? How do you parent in a digital world?
With a significant portion of online life being spent outside of our line of sight, we need to quit worrying about embarrassing our children with blunt questions about their smartphone and computer use. This is where things get awkward, but an open and honest discussion will make you less queasy than monitoring the every move of your trusting 12-year-old with an app like MamaBear. Some of you’ll feel that tracking their smartphone whereabouts doesn’t sound particularly invasive, but you need to take into account that you are putting trusted people like your own parents, their grandparents, under surveillance at the same time. The hands-off approach offered by an app sounds like a completely modern way to handle things, but it doesn’t feel like good parenting.
How can I build an online safety system that does not require spy apps?
If your kids are old enough to use a laptop or Samsung Galaxy Tab unsupervised, they will not chafe at the establishment of guidelines from mom and dad. It’s a good idea to set the rules in stone, putting them into hard copy contract format. Ignoring the rules should carry the same consequences that would follow an online infraction. Should there be resistance to a particular rule or a lack of understanding about why it’s been included, it’ll be necessary to have a frank conversation about your concerns.
Promote a zero tolerance policy regarding the sharing of any unnecessary information for what appears to be a free iPad contest on the hottest new blogging platform. Most contests that are not run through a major website are attempts to compile personal information for a purpose that isn’t always immediately evident. The same kind of prudence should be displayed by internet users of all ages when a fun online questionnaire of unknown origin begins to make the rounds.
It’d also be a wise idea to review the privacy settings for all family members who maintain a Facebook social media account as well as ongoing internet access. Updating your Facebook privacy settings is a simple matter, and the basics regarding what is made public can be found if you visit this link. Internet privacy settings can be modified by visiting the settings tab on a browser like Firefox; clicking options; clicking privacy and clicking use custom settings for history. Modifying internet privacy settings will allow you to determine how much a website knows about your family and their habits.
The safety of your family on the web doesn’t need to be a game of “gotcha!” Clearly established rules will eliminate the necessity to deploy spy apps. Be open in your monitoring of their online life and they probably won’t feel the need to start hiding things from you.