Imagine your teenage daughter is desperate to attend a concert six hours away and you won't take her. While chatting on the band's forums about her plight, an adult stranger offers to drive two hours out of their way, pick up your daughter, take her to the concert, stay in a hotel together, and drive her home.
Sick nightmare in the making? This is a true story, but luckily the guardian found out and intervened before...who knows, but I shudder.
Kids' internet safety + online privacy is a tricky trail to navigate, but here are a few pointers to teach your kids about their virtual privacy...and to keep in mind as the parent, as well.
Facebook & Twitter
- When other people take pictures of your kids, tell them how you do or don't want them to be displayed.
- Turn the Location services OFF of Facebook and Twitter. Listing your location as you travel about town is a not-so-great way to allow strangers to literally follow you, or to allow thieves to burgle your home with full confidence while you're across town "@Soccer Practice!"
- Turn Location comments OFF of Facebook and Twitter photos. Adults, don't Tag your kids. These tools are like bread crumbs for scummy kid stalkers.
- Don't Update or Tweet where you're about to go.
- Don't Update or Tweet that you're home alone. I don't ever mention when my husband is out of town or give an exact vacation date, either.
- Remind kids (especially teens) not to say or photograph ANYTHING they don't want shared. This record will follow them (haunt them) forever.
- Don't make fun of someone else online. It's mean and will come back to bite you.
- If your kids are old enough to have their own FB and Twitter accounts, be sure you're "friends." Trust, schmust. You need to have an online presence in their online lives to protect them. From adult scums; from kid bullies; from themselves.
Very simple concept tweeted by Pirillo.
Texts, DM's, Chatting
- Don't answer texts or DM's from people you don't know.
- If someone you "know" starts asking strange questions (about location, what school you go to, age, flirting or sexual questions, usernames/passwords or anything else personal), immediately end the convo.
- Be wary of creating "intimate" relationships online. Anyone can become anyone online. Faceless does not mean harmless.
It's important to have a family discussion about the responsibility that comes with the Internet -- full of so much good and bad mere clicks apart. Write down a simple policy, and even consider limiting kids' Internet usage to certain areas of the house so they're within eye and earshot of adults. Here's a straight-forward contract you can download and print for free from iMom.
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You may also consider installing an Internet filter such as Safe Eyes.
While we're on the topic of filters, let's tackle the big elephant in the room:
Here are some staggering stats from The United Families International.
- 10% of Internet sites are pornographic (that's over 24.5 million)
- In the United States, the online porn industry rakes in $2.84 billion. The worldwide online porn industry is worth $4.9 billion.
- 25% of online searches are porn related (that's 68 million/day)
- 35% of internet downloads are pornographic
- Utah has the nation's highest online subscription rate.
- The average age that a child first sees porn online: 11 years.
- The highest rate of online porn viewing each week: Sunday.
So you see, the Safe Eyes filter could be a good idea regardless of who's in your house...kids, teens, boy/girl, husband/wife...This is about protecting everyone from their own temptation to click on what's so very, very accessible.
More Family Resources
Google Family Safety Center - adding safety locks to Google search, YouTube and other tools.
Family Online Safety Guide by Marian Merrit for Norton
STOP Cyberbullying - advice for parents
My kids are too little to have deep discussions about these concepts, but I've already seen what a stray click can invite. For now, I'm simply teaching them that our family is an open book, and they only play with my phone, iPad or computer when I'm sitting right beside them. My husband and I also talk about the computer and keep it in common living areas. That's what works for us.
What works for your family? How do you maintain your kids' privacy and safety online?
Image of girl with computer from imagerymajestic at freedigitalphotos.net