“Mom, my throat really hurts. I’m going to google Caribbean Passion to get a recipe for a smoothie.” My son’s favorite smoothie shop makes a tropical sensation with mangos, bananas, kiwis, and strawberries aptly named Caribbean Passion.
“Sure, sounds like a great idea to sooth that hurting throat.”
As soon as the words left my mouth, I realized my mistake. “WAIT! Add ‘smoothie’ in the search box.” I quickly scooted across the kitchen to join my then 11-year-old at the computer. A conversation with a friend had come back to me. She had been researching online with her child and had too few words describing what they was looking for and ended up with a number of very inappropriate websites popping up.
Keeping kids safe in a technology driven culture is daunting. Computers, tablets, and smartphones make virtually anything available. The world is just a click away. How do we protect our kids? Here are a few ideas to guide you along the way.
1. Open communication.
Talk to your kids about what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate online. Remind kids what’s posted online is forever. The photos posted online are public for always. Schools of higher education and future employers research candidates online. Discuss what impression the online presence will leave. Even “private” groups on social media for friends are not totally private. Respect is key, for others and themselves. My line has been, “If you wouldn’t want Grandma or me to see it or read it, don’t post it.”
Keep the conversations going as your children mature and begin to use the Internet academically and socially. Sexting and sharing drug, tobacco, and alcohol related photos are common practices with tweens and teens. If Mom and Dad are paying the bill for technology (Internet, cable tv, cell phones, etc.), they have access to see what’s viewed, posted and heard. Check what apps are being used and site are being visited. Phones, laptops, and televisions do not belong in the child’s bedroom. Make this a family rule.
2. Keep the computer in a common area.
The kitchen or family room are great places for the computer. Place the screen facing out so adults can monitor what sites kids are visiting and what is being posted. Security software is helpful, but Mom and Dad are the best monitors to keep track of Internet travels.
Know the passwords for your children’s accounts and help them with the privacy settings. Coach kids to NEVER share passwords or personal information. This includes age, birthdate, address, and phone numbers. Make sure the privacy setting on apps can be set to protect the child’s current location.
3. Post a copy of Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8).
The verse on the computer screen will remind family members to visit wholesome sites. Porn is easily accessible on tablets, smartphones, and any family computer. Discuss why pornography is harmful. (See Dr. Jim Dempsey’s post regarding porn.) Check the computer history occasionally to see what sites kids visit.
4. Be a good role model in what you post, share, and watch online.
Children see all. Then they imitate what they see. Little eyes and little ears see and hear what we do. It’s more than avoiding the gossip and crude language. It’s being ON for your children. Put your cell phone away when the kids are with you. Facebook and Instagram can wait. Set a good example by turning off all electronics during mealtimes and while driving.
5. If your child is participating in social media, join in.
Friend him on Facebook or follow him on Instagram. Keep up with the trends and keep the conversation going. Don’t be the helicopter parent or make too many comments…you’ll get “unfriended” by your kid!
The Internet is a great tool in many ways. Be a safety conscious parent to raise tech savvy kids.
How do you keep your children safe online?
By Becky Danielson
Wife to Scott, mom of two college boys
Licensed Parent & Family Educator
Co-founder of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting
Co-author of three parenting books
Pick up a copy of Raising Little Kids with Big Love or Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love for more parenting strategies at the 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Store.