With over half of young people reporting that they have been cyber bullied, this form of digital harassment has reached an all time high. As a parent, you struggle with some difficult questions. Do we have conversations with our kids, but then trust them to make appropriate decisions online for themselves? Do we use apps to track and monitor their digital usage? How do we let them know we think they’re trustworthy, but still play an active role in their Internet activity?
None of these questions are easily answered. But the good news is that, wherever your beliefs on the spectrum of parental involvement fall, there are resources to help you.
One of the hardest parts about online safety today is that digital interactions aren’t limited to computers. Smartphones have made it possible (and common) for even young kids to have cellphones enabled with Wi-Fi, like Apple’s iPhone 6, on them nearly 24/7. With the prevalence of social media platforms and the easy accessibility, it’s no wonder the Internet has become a breeding ground for bullies. Whenever it comes to tackling difficult issues with your kids, start with a conversation. Sit them down, look in their eyes and explain the importance of their reputation.
Tell them real stories about how online actions can affect their offline world, and how the image they create of themselves digitally can impact their relationships and even future careers. If you feel this conversation has sunk in, great. Befriend your kids on the social media sites they use so you can observe their behaviors from a healthy distance. If you still feel their reputations need some additional protection, you can consider an app like SocialShield. The cloud-based software gives you reports about how safe your young one’s social profiles and can let you know if there are vulnerabilities.
Maybe you’ve had trouble before with your child in an online arena. It could be that your little darling was the target of a bully and was too scared to tell you for fear of retribution by the bully, or perhaps your own child was the bully to others. If you feel you need a little more insight into your daughter’s digital activities than merely befriending her on Facebook or following her on Twitter will grant you, you might want to look into YouDiligence. The software tracks keywords based on your personal preferences. If racial slurs have been a problem for you, you can make related terms your focus. If alcohol or bullying are the main culprits, customize the software to alert you when anything related arises so you can nip this behavior in the bud.
Active Online Parenting
Advances in technology have enabled parents with the informational tools and software to completely protect their children from cyberbullies, unsolicited adult content, and lurking Internet predators. Available on both PCs and mobile devices, PureSight creates a safe online environment for children. You can use PureSight to filter the web in real-time, set Internet curfews, control file sharing, and receive reports on what your kids are posting on social media sites and chat rooms. The endless features give parents the ultimate control over kids’ online lives.
Establishing Virtual Boundaries
As usual in parenting, most decisions often come back to boundaries. CyberSynchs is a data synchronization tool that backs up and shares data between mobile devices and computers. You can use it to prevent access to certain synchronized information, as well as to get access to your child’s last physical location via GPS. The Parental Mode can be used in a variety of ways to set definitive parameters for your young one.
When your child wants to be active online, it’s important to give him credit for becoming tech-savvy. Before you decide which approach you want to use, try talking to your son. Ask him why he wants to have social media profiles. Does he want to stay in touch with friends? Does his soccer team have a Facebook group he wants to join? Open a dialogue about bullying and about the risks of sharing personal information through an online forum.
Once you have discussed digital profiles with your child, you should have a good idea about how best to proceed. Whether it’s a hands-off approach, or an all-hands-on-deck monitoring service you rely upon, just be sure you’re upfront with your child and keep the conversations flowing. Above all, little eyes are looking up to you and need to know you’re a safe place to go if things go awry and a happy place to go if things go well—both online and offline.