Cyber Awareness with Your Child
Here are some tips for getting started:
- Talk casually and frequently with your children about online choices and where they can lead, and keep communication lines open. Use relevant news stories or cases at schools to bolster the desire for safe Internet use. Help your kids understand that the value of making their personal privacy a priority and to understand that once something is on the Web, it’s there forever. Don't use scare tactics to inform kids, give the examples of what has happened to other people who have not asked questions or been aware of what the possibilities are for choices made. Ask them what they would do in these instances to create a different result. Offer suggestions in the form of questions- such as: What do you think would be another choice in this situation? Would changing your privacy settings make a difference? Do you know how to set your privacy settings?
- Emphasize the concept of credibility to your teens: Not everything they see on the Internet is true and people on the Internet may not be who they appear to be. Have them be in the question of "Is this really true?" and " What do I know about this?" and "Who does this point of view belong to?" Bringing in some questions about what friends are choosing and what does your child know about choosing that for his benefit?
- Watch for changes in behavior – if your child suddenly avoids the computer or smartphone, it may be a sign he or she is being bullied online. Bullying is also a sign that your child is stepping into being a victim. What would it take to empower them with the knowing that no one can take advantage of them that they don't allow? Where are they making themselves small, insignificant and meaningless that they would believe that someone else has power over them? What do they know about the person who is bullying them? What else is possible in this situation?
- Review security settings and privacy policies for websites kids and teens as needed. These settings are frequently updated so check back regularly. Teach your kids how to monitor this for themselves. Create a check list to review the policies every 6 months, or sooner if it feels like there is something not right. Trust your own knowing about what feels light and what doesn't and teach your kids about what they know about what they feel or sense. We often don’t know why something doesn’t feel right, and it often isn’t in our best interest to wait to find out.
- Are the mobile devices secure? What do you know about making them secure? Include your kids in discovering how to secure devices so that they won’t rely on you do that for them. Use PINs and passwords, only install apps from trusted sources, and understand the privacy settings and permissions for all apps. Be in question and awareness around anything that doesn't feel right, even if it doesn't make sense.
- Research together websites and apps your child or teen uses – or wants to use. Check for age restrictions (ranks include: everyone, low maturity, medium maturity, high maturity) along with customer reviews. Talk with your child about asking questions about these sites and what the benefit is for them to be on these sites. Don't go into judgment about any website your child is using or wants to use. Ask questions about what it is they are looking for and what do they already know about that? You can then guide them to the appropriate resources.
- Help your child understand why sharing passwords with friends and acquaintances is not a good idea, and in fact can be dangerous. Ask them what they are willing to lose by giving out their passwords? Talk about what trust is and the value of asking questions about any choice we make. And on the subject of trust, if your child can’t or won’t use the computer and other devices in a way that works for you, it may be that you will need to give them limited usage until they get the value of being in the question and choosing to be aware of other possibilities. As you continue to empower them with the tools of being aware you can adjust their usage. Do know that each of us gains more awareness through the choices we make and as an empowered parent you empower your kids when you are in allowance of any choice without the need to judge it. Not all choices turn out the way we think they will. What is right about this choice that I have made or my child has made?
Using cyber devices can certainly benefit ways that we stay connected and even add more joy to our life. Just as we approach other people and situations with awareness and being in question about whether or not this is someone or something that will add to my life and create more joy and ease, so too we apply the same tools of awareness for using technology. Empowered parents practice these tools and share them with their kids creating more consciousness and awareness that allows parents to sleep with more ease.