Today, the big talk parents need to have with their children isn’t just the traditional one. There is also the “tech talk,” or how to be safe and conscious online. There is no denying that technology has completely infiltrated its way into our lives. According to the Pew Research Center, 92% of teens report going online daily, and 24% report being online “almost constantly.” It’s more important now than it has ever been for parents to take responsibility of their children’s Internet behavior.
What to Talk About
From gaming to social media to just plain Google searches, you may not know where to start when educating your children on how to use technology today. Start by focusing on the three principles of safe Internet usage: age-appropriateness, protecting personal information, and restrictions.
What’s Their Age, Again?
It should come as no surprise that children of different ages should be consuming different kinds of media. For example, your toddler or young child may want to play games online that involve some of their favorite characters. These games are usually harmless and may even help your child learn. When children get older, parents may start to worry more. What is appropriate Internet behavior for an 8-year-old boy? What about a 12-year-old girl?
Each child’s interests may vary, but their general behavior should reflect their mental and physical maturity level. For children under 17 years old, most experts suggest avoiding material like:
- Excessive or unnecessary violence
- Sexually explicit material
- Cyberbullying behavior (ex: children talking to each other through live video games or social media)
The Devil in the Details
Most children know not to get into a strange van with a stranger offering candy, but the Internet can be a lot sneakier. With tracking, hacking, and other ways to get information, children must be extra careful online.
When having the “tech talk,” remember to emphasize the importance of not sharing personal details online. This includes, but is certainly not limited to:
- Addresses and phone numbers
- Bank account information
- Personal details like school or clubs
- Pictures without prior permission
Remind your child not to meet up with strangers they meet or talk to on the Internet, open any ambiguous emails from unknown senders (as these may have viruses that can infiltrate your computer and steal personal information), or fail to report any suspicious messages.
While most children mean well online, they can still inadvertently run into trouble. According to Fox News, of children ages 10-17 who viewed sexually explicit material online, two thirds of them saw the material by accident.
This is why it is crucial for parents to set boundaries for even the most well-behaved Internet users. At Forcefield, we offer multiple products that protect kids online, such as Google Safe Search, App Sleeper, and Photo Report. All of these tools are meant to give children the flexibility to learn from the Internet and establish healthy tech behavior, while limiting dangerous information.
You are, after all, responsible for setting boundaries with your children’s behavior and technology is a great place to start. Sitting down with your child and having a tech talk, including clear cut boundaries, will benefit both of you.
How to Have the Tech Talk
Just as it’s awkward to approach the “birds and the bees” talk, it may feel awkward to have the tech talk. But, this conversation is vital to keeping your kids safe in the Digital Age. Here are three tips on how to have this important conversation with your child that will have you both coming out feeling safer and more confident:
- Be Supportive. Realizing the vastness of the Internet for the first time may be overwhelming to your child. They literally have the world’s information at their fingertips. While this can be empowering and educational, it can also be dangerous. Encourage your child to come to you with anything they see on the Internet or social media that makes them feel uncomfortable. Assure them that you won’t judge their behavior, but instead want to guide them to safe sites.
- Be authoritative. When children are given too much freedom, they may end up in a sticky situation. By laying down the rules first and foremost, there will be little room for confusion.
- Be involved. One of the biggest disconnects comes when parents have little understanding of their child’s technology. While downloading the trendiest apps may be the last thing you want to do, understanding how your child engages with current sites is key.
There are plenty of software programs, both free and paid, available for parents interested in keeping their children safe online. Check out Forcefield’s products here.