Everyone parent wants to be the "cool" parent. You don't want to be one of those parents who won't let their child have a Facebook account because it could be too dangerous. And when you mentioned to your child that he could have a Facebook account, you thought his face might break because he was so thrilled. And he couldn't get to his computer fast enough to get signed up. Before the night was over, the amount of friends he had was climbing. At last count, he had over three hundred, which is more than you have on your Facebook page. You've had yours for three years.
While you're basking in the glow of being "parent of the year" for a little while (at least until it's time to remind your son to take the garbage out...again), it's important to remember that along with such a great privilege, you have a responsibility to teach your child how to use something that has as many risks as rewards. Thinking back on our days as children we had no experience quite like a "first Facebook" or a "first phone", but we had many other firsts in which we can learn from. You wouldn't send your child out on a bike with no helmet and no training wheels would you? We suggest the following preemptive steps in providing "social network training wheels":
Talk about your expectations
Kids can’t follow a rule if it doesn’t exist. Clear expectations must be set or your child is likely to make mistakes. The resource link on the uKnowKids homepage has free safety tips and an Internet & Mobile Safety Pledge for Kids. The safety pledge can help parents start the conversation with their kids about the importance of internet and mobile usage rules. It can also teach your child about the dangers of cyberbullying or sexting.
Location, location, location
Computers should be placed in common areas in the home to make parental monitoring easier. Letting your child use a computer in their rooms or behind closed doors makes it more likely for them to misuse homework time, or worse, fall prey to online predators and cyberbullies.Know what your child does onlineLearn what social network and internet sites your kids are using. A search engine’s browsing history should tell what sites are viewed, but tech savvy kids know how to cover their tracks and delete evidence of inappropriate online behavior. If your child isn’t likely to be open about their online habits, it is crucial for you to use parental monitoring tools.
Use parental monitoring tools
There are a variety of parental monitoring tools available that can provide social network, mobile, and location monitoring. Do your reasearch, find one that matches your needs and sign up. Parental monitoring has become a must since our kids are using potentially dangerous technology on a daily basis. Be proactive and create a plan to ensure your child’s safety.