It’s 10:00 – do you know where your children are online? It’s a whole new world for teens and for those of us with teens these days. I suppose every generation says that – but when I was a kid the only way you could talk to someone after hours was on the family phone or through a window. Now kids have computers, ipads, smartphones, cell phones, ipods and the window. At least I now know that other parents are as concerned as I am. According to Pew Internet & American Life…
- 81% of parents of online teens say they are concerned about how much information advertisers can learn about their child’s online behavior, with some 46% being “very” concerned.
- 72% of parents of online teens are concerned about how their child interacts online with people they do not know, with some 53% of parents being “very” concerned.
- 69% of parents of online teens are concerned about how their child’s online activity might affect their future academic or employment opportunities, with some 44% being “very” concerned about that.
- 69% of parents of online teens are concerned about how their child manages his or her reputation online, with some 49% being “very” concerned about that.
- Some of these expressions of concern are particularly acute for the parents of younger teens; 63% of parents of teens ages 12-13 say they are “very” concerned about their child’s interactions with people they do not know online and 57% say they are “very” concerned about how their child manages his or her reputation online.
The question is – what do you do? There are lots of places online to look for advice – some of it good. I was impressed with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) – more because they obviously have decades of offering advice to parents than for any technology tips they offer. The fact that the mention MySpace and not Twitter is telling in terms of technical aptitude but I think the advice they offer transcends platform and that’s what I want as a parent. I know the ins and outs of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. I’m probably at an advantage to some parents there – but I live in fear that my kids are on some network I don’t know about! How can I address the unknown?
The advice from AAP can be distilled into a couple of bullet points (although the full list if worth checking out):
- Be where your kids are online, take time to understand the platform
- Tell your kids the importance of respecting their online profile/brand for now and the future
- Communicate with kids about what they are doing online – ask them what they do!
- Have access to everything they do (that means friending them and having their passwords)
- Follow up with checking on what they do!
- Teach etiquette online – no gossip, no talking to strangers, no bullying, no inappropriate language or pictures (similar to real life!)
- Make sure you and they understand the law and the dangers
- Talk with other parents about what their kids are doing and compare notes
- Be a place they can go for advice
We had a scary incident yesterday that reminded me of the positive role the Internet can have in keeping kids safe. I got an email from the kids’ school that a mysterious white van, no windows had been seen around the neighborhood. The driver and friend had been seen trying to talk to kids on the way home from school. I emailed that to my neighborhood list. Within 15 minutes I had an email from the neighborhood council that the police reported to her that they were in active pursuit. Imagine how long that would have taken if we relied on a phone tree or paper newsletters?