Today with the digital age and the advent of social media, the new “hangout spot” is in the digital world. The neighborhood is Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and any number of new apps that become available. This neighborhood can be a dangerous one to get lost in.
The landscape of technology advances so quickly that many parents feel overwhelmed by just keeping up. Some parents are also often unaware as to what is available at the fingertips of their children. In this case ignorance is not bliss. With the daily changes in what is available, parents and grandparents must commit themselves to becoming educated.
If your child has mobile internet access, it will be more difficult to monitor and control his or her internet use. Get to know your child’s device and set parental controls. If you don’t know how to do this Google it. Your child’s account should be password protected by the parent so that all downloads are visible by the parents. Be aware that apps like Snapchat (a popular photo texting app) were created with sexting in mind. The idea behind apps like Snapchat is that you can take a picture and send it to someone setting a time limit on how long the picture will remain visible. Although this app may be used for harmless fun, it potentially could be used for pornography. It is important to talk to your child about your expectations for technology use and that you know what apps are on their devices. Be aware also that there is the possibility that apps can be hidden from normal view on devices.
Internet accountability software and content filters are great tools. Internet accountability software allows parents (or this can also be used among adult friends) to see which sites their children (or their friend) go to online. This helps parents (and friends) hold the other accountable for their actions. Covenant Eyes is an excellent example of accountability software and it also has a filter that parents can set to further address their child’s safety. Go to CovenantEyes.com or see the video below for more information.
Content blockers and filters WILL NOT REPLACE VIGILANT PARENTS. Even if you use content blockers, filters, and trackers, know that a lot of kids figure out ways to get around these, so it’s important to remain vigilant. Keep monitoring how your kids use the internet on a regular basis without getting into the role of internet traffic cop. Have conversations about social media with them. Ask them periodically to look at their Facebook, twitter and other accounts. Trust your instincts if you believe that something may be wrong. Remind your child that they should not be ashamed of anything that goes out. Tell them because you love them and wish to protect them you are setting these guidelines.
START EARLY. If you start early with filtering and device check-ins and so on your children will be used to it and it will be a way of life. Some parents take take control of phone chargers and all phones are handed in to parents after a certain hour to be recharged in the parent’s bedroom. Consider implementing Technology free zones. No phones in their bedrooms. No phones after dinner. Get creative and don’t be afraid to upset your child. You are their parent, not their best friend. They will get over it and will appreciate it…one day!