Good parents want to keep their kids safe.
Here are a few strategies that you’re probably already doing off-line that we can apply to them online:
- Securing the points of entry
- Controlling their environment
- Teaching them to make good choices
- Equipping them to engage in the inevitable dangers appropriately
This post is an overview for three additional posts that will give more details and practical tips and tools for reducing the worry and stress in your home that technology can sometimes bring.
Secure the point of entry
We have locks on our doors cameras in our doorbells and security systems keep strangers our of out homes. But are we filtering harmful content that is readily available to them online? Content filtering is an important first step to insuring that the most host harmful and objectionable content never gets inside our homes. Thankfully there are some great tools that can help us control and filter online content without having to be an IT expert.
Control the environment
When I was a kid my parents put limits on how far I could ride my bike, and how late I could stay out with friends. They wanted to know who I was with, and what I was doing. Online and in social media we have no idea who is on the other end of that post, comment or like. Checking our kids’ phones is absolutely a parental right (even a duty), but it likely doesn’t happen regularly. Sometimes it feels like the best you can do is discover a problem after it’s already happened. We can do better, and we can do it without a fight. There are apps and tools (some built right in to our devices) that can help by putting time limits on their device access, and can even control access to specific apps. When the expectation is set in advance, and is enforced objectively by the device itself, it avoids the conflicts before it starts.
Teach them to make good choices
Another thing that we do to keep them safe is to teach them how to make safe choices. When we can trust them to cross the road on the cross-walk and to look both ways we’ve taught them to make a safe choice. Roads can be dangerous, but that danger can be accounted for by taking a few simple precautions that allow us to safely cross streets every day. Good choices online include things like not giving out personal information and having secure passwords. Another important skill is critical thinking. There is an overwhelming amount of information available that makes it hard to know what is important or valuable. And then there’s the issue of mis-information, conspiracy theories, and fake news that we have to wade through.
Equip to engage in the danger appropriately
A final thing that we do to keep our kids safe is prepare them to defend themselves against the danger. This can come in many different forms like putting on the proper gear for a sport or putting on the appropriate clothes for the weather. Our kids don’t know life without smart devices. They are going to engage online, they’re going to post on social media, and they’re going to have a digital device with them for nearly every waking hour for the rest of their lives. I believe this is mostly exciting, but it’s also a little scary.
We have to be aware of the dangers. So many times we don’t know what our kids are doing online, maybe we don’t want to know. We think that if it’s not porn we’re okay, but greatest danger online might not be the most obvious one. We’re raising a generation where your identity and worth is being determined by an algorithm. Facebook knows you so well it feeds you the advertisements for things you were just thinking about buying.
Some not-so-great ways that we try to keep our kids safe
- We avoid uncomfortable topics
- We save them when we should be teaching them (because teaching is hard)
- We teach them that danger is bad and safety is good
- We lie to them
Have you ever tried on of the ‘not-so-great’ approaches in an attempt to keep your child safe? How did it work out? Leave a comment below