Remember our verse from part 1? Proverbs 27:12 says: “A prudent person foresees the danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”
Or, “A prudent parent foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions. The simpleton parent goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” As parents, we need to see the dangers ahead, and we must take precautions.
What can you do to protect your child online? Here is part 2, numbers 6-10.
6. Teach your child to never give out personal information.
Free! That’s the word. It’s captivating. It’s intriguing; and it’s free! Usually, sites that are trying to get information start by asking a simple question. Maybe it’s your first name, your age, or the last grade you completed in school. This may be followed up by a few more seemingly innocuous questions, like the name of a favorite animal or the name of a pet.
Continue to remind your children that when they are online, they are not to give out any personal information, for any reason, at any time. This applies to the personal information of other people as well.
When someone on a social media site asks your children about their friends, your children should be taught to say, “I don’t know; why don’t you ask them personally?” Go over with your children examples of personal questions: “Where does your mom work?” “Are your parents at home right now?” “What school do you go to?” These questions are all examples of personal information that should not be given to an unknown person.
7. Explain why your child shouldn’t chat with anyone he or she doesn’t know.
Explain to your children that there are people who hide behind the anonymous mask of the Internet. Explain that just because someone says her name is Tiffany and appears to go to their school doesn’t mean that it’s really Tiffany at the other end of the chat.
Online gaming with an Xbox or PlayStation is a bit more difficult to deal with. When our kids played online group games that involved players from around the world––all chatting and talking together during game play––we would simply have them play with the sound on so we could hear the conversation. It’s safe to say that our values as a family are not always the same values of other families. With that said, how do you respond to a few four-letter words that are dropped throughout the game? Do you have a strict “Turn that off” policy? At a certain age, we did.
However, as our kids got older, we decided to help them navigate their world by asking them questions. “What did you think about that guy’s language?” “Why do you think they use that language?” “Why do you think that gal was threatening the other player during the game?” Giving our children this additional freedom not only built trust between us but also helped them to think through and develop their own healthy online boundaries.
8. Discuss the appropriate use of the Internet with your children.
Why do your kids use the Internet? To study? To play? To interact? Yes! It’s a one-stop shop, isn’t it? Some people may say, “Craig, you are “harshing” my digital world. Why are you so negative about the Internet.” Easy answer, I’m not! I love the Internet.
As an author, it has made my life easier in a hundred different ways––the two most important being research and accessibility to content. Not too long ago, I would have had to go to the library and use the card catalog (remember that?) to look up a book or author. Research was legwork; now it’s finger work. So no “harshing” here, just a few thoughts about how to appropriately use this amazing tool. And, IMHO (in my humble opinion), studying, playing and interacting are all great uses of the Internet.
9. Show your child what to do if he or she stumbles onto inappropriate sites.
As you spend time online with your children, help them understand what they should do if they stumble upon something inappropriate. When they start using the Internet, most kids don’t go looking for inappropriate sites or content, but they may either stumble on it while at home or see it while at the home of one of their friends who decides to show everyone else what he or she has found.
If your children are at a friend’s home when the inappropriate content comes up on the screen, they may stay and watch because they are afraid of being ridiculed or harassed if they were to stand up and walk out of the room. Peer pressure can overwhelm their sense of what’s right. If your children have faith in Christ, they will also have to deal with the guilt of viewing the content as well as the guilt of not telling you about it.
It’s important to have early and open conversations with your kids about what to do when––not if––they come across unhealthy content on the Internet. Keeping open communication between you and your children is extremely important, and it’s something I haven’t always done well. I had to make a conscious effort to move from a lecture style of parenting to a listening style, especially as my kids have gotten older.
10. Frequently check your child’s digital footprint.
What’s a digital footprint? A digital footprint is similar to a regular footprint, which is simply an impression or mark you leave as you physically walk around. In this case, it’s a mark you leave as you digitally walk around. A footprint usually tells you a few things. First, it will always tell you where you have been. And second, it usually tells you where you are going. I believe that frequently checking your child’s digital footprint is a step in a healthy direction.
What about respecting your child’s privacy? That’s another post but I feel it would be parentally irresponsible to not check your child’s digital footprint on a regular basis. Remember what the Proverbs said about being prudent as we look ahead, not regretful as we look back.
Filtering out unwanted content from your eight-year-old son’s browser, or blocking certain social media sites for your nine-year-old daughter may be something you find not only useful but absolutely essential as kids engage this modern world their way.
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