Read this if you have an important child in your life.
Because of my Yahoo! Motherboard membership, I was able to listen in on a call with Catherine Teitelbaum, the Director of Child Safety at Yahoo! Inc. There was so much useful information shared, that I hope I’m able to pass it on appropriately. I didn’t realize that Yahoo! is a long time leader in child online safety and committed to helping foster a safer environment. Here’s some data you might be interested in from a recent survey they took:
- 70% of parents talk to their kids about online safety 2-3 times a year
- 45% of parents talk to their kids about it once a month
- 74% of parents are connected to their children’s profiles on social networking sites
- 71% of dads (compared to 63% of moms) are taking at least one action, including having conversations about respecting privacy of others
- 53% of dads plug their children’s names into search engines at least 2-3 times per year (compared to 38% of moms)
A Computer In A Common Area May Not Be Enough
The message I took home is that it’s just not enough to put the family computer in a place where parents can monitor what’s going on. That, while helpful, is now a dated solution. It’s important to give your children training wheels, just like on their first bicycle, and then take the training wheels off so that they can navigate the big online world with good sense and care.
Though in the online world, you take the training wheels off slowly and monitor the entire way. Friend them on social media sites like Facebook so you can see what they are doing.
We all know what the risks are online such as cyberbullying, internet predators, inappropriate content and more. But what struck me is the emphasis on managing your child’s digital reputation, which is a concept that I can see a bit difficult to teach a young child. What a child puts online may make them more vulnerable to the above risks. There are 5 basic recommendations from Yahoo! that help foster a good online experience:
1. Own Your Digital Reputation
Teach kids that everything they put online is public and should be information that they’d be comfortable sharing with their teachers, grandparents and future job prospects. They need to be aware that once it’s online, it’s online.
This also applies to parents. Parents have a huge impact on their child’s digital footprint so whatever they put online needs to be well thought through.
2. Keep Private Information Under Control
Yahoo! has found that young girls have a tendency to share passwords with each other when they first get online. Friendships change while passwords often don’t. We parents know it’s risky to share passwords, but kids don’t think 3 steps ahead like we do.
3. Be Nice Online
The more you treat people with respect online, the more it will come back to you. Teach your children to ignore bullies. You can use privacy tools to block bullies. Teach them that it’s critical to report ANY abuse to a trusted adult.
4. Know Your Rights
Kids need to know that they have the right not to respond to an email, text or anything that makes them uncomfortable or scared. They don’t always know that they do not have to respond. They need to understand that these texts and emails need to be shown to a responsible adult.
5. Have Regular Family Chats
Everyone benefits when everyone is on the same page. Bullying is less likely to escalate if you have regular chats about your kids’ online experiences.
There was a lot of discussion about kids starting on one site and accidentally navigating to others that should be off-limits. Software blocks work but, in the long run, it’s better to teach the child how to know when she’s gone beyond acceptable parameters.
Teach them to monitor the URL and that when it changes, a parent, teacher or guardian needs to check to see where they’ve gone. Explain what you’re looking for. Say, “I’m looking to see if this is taking you to a place you’re seeing videos that are not appropriate,” or “I’m looking to see if this is a place where you can talk to other people,” or similar. Tell them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
Evolving Online Safety Risks
I thought this was extremely interesting. Kids need to understand that who they are talking to online might not be who they think they are talking to.
Kids should not be friends with anyone online that they are not friends with in real life.
Peer to peer issues are big now. Even kids that your kids know online can take on different online personas. And, with those online personas, some kids can behave terribly.
Teach your children that there is no separation between their online life and their personal life.
Kids And Cell Phone Safety
Give serious thought to what kind of phone you give your child. If it’s for safety reasons, think about initially having them hand it over to you when they walk in the door. Turn the phone off and leave it outside their bedrooms so they aren’t receiving late night texts. You can ease off once you feel comfortable and the kids are older. Always check phone records to see who they are calling and what kind of photos and videos they are receiving or sending. You should have household rules about computers and phones.
I’m totally all ears to how you all handle cell phones and online safety. Comments are VERY welcome.
*Photo credit: istockphoto/morganl