Prior to the Internet, children typically called their friends on the phone when they wanted to communicate. Parents could fairly easily monitor their children’s telephone use. They might have limited when, with whom or how long a child talked on the phone.
Like the telephone, the Internet is merely a tool that needs to be used with a parent’s guidance. Here are a few suggestions that might help:
- Discuss the dangers of sharing too much information. Reinforce the message that some people are very clever and can convince unsuspecting children to reveal personal information.
- Establish acceptable online behavior. Send a clear message that you never say anything online that you would not say to a person’s face or that you might regret if someone else were to read it.
- Place your computer in a public space. A computer in a bedroom can be a temptation. Knowing that mom or dad can see what is happening on the screen is a great way to deter any inappropriate online behavior.
- Limit online time. Hanging out at a friend’s house, chatting on the phone and instant messaging online are all ways to spend social time. Just as you would limit the time your child spends away from home or on the phone, you need to limit online time.
- Look at your child’s Facebook page. Unlike a diary that is considered private, a social networking page is in the public domain. Are you comfortable with the image your child is presenting?
- Know your child’s username and password. Don’t confuse respecting your child’s privacy with limiting your role as a parent. You may never search your child’s room, but you would not want the door to be locked.
- Watch for signs of bullying. Anonymity may make your child a victim of ridicule or threats. Be certain to report any hint of cyberbullying to your school – and take immediate action if you think your child has taken to bullying others.