I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.
Did you know that June is National Internet Safety Month? Now that the internet and social media is a daily part of our lives, it's more important that ever to make sure your children know how to use it responsibly. I am a blogger and Alfie is a web engineer, so it would be crazy (not to mention a bit hypocritical) to ban our kids from accessing the internet when they see us online all day. But we're still the grownups and the parents, so we do set rules and limits on their internet usage. Here are some of the things we do:
1) All our kids have email accounts, but as parents we know all their passwords, and they are fully aware that we reserve the right to check their emails at any time (and we do).
2) The kids have various social media accounts -- Jammy is on Twitter and Instagram, 3Po is on Instagram, and The Pea is on Instagram, Pinterest, Kik, Vine and SnapChat. but they adhere to age restrictions (i.e. no one has a Facebook account yet since the minimum age is 13). I follow all their social media accounts and they follow me. I also know all the passwords to their social media accounts.
3) We don't allow them to give out any contact information online -- even their user names should not contain any personal information.
4) Only The Pea has a cell phone -- now that she is in middle school and bikes to and from school on her own, I want to be able to contact her. But her phone plan is extremely limited (Kajeet's $5 per month plan) so she can't really spend any time texting or chatting with her friends. I know it's a bit draconian and I intend to increase her talk/message/web time as she gets older, but for now I'm perfectly happy "forcing" her to access the internet on a wifi network -- she certainly does enough chatting and social networking with her friends from home! -- and being the mean/cheap mom.
5) No one has a laptop in their bedrooms (not even Alfie or I!). Since she can't really access the web from her cellphone, I've been a bit lax about letting The Pea stay in her room with her iPad to chat and network with her friends on Instagram/Vine/SnapChat (her 3 faves).... but I make it a point to frequently enter her room unannounced so she knows we're watching.
6) We talk about internet safety A LOT. Stories on the news and on the internet give us many opportunities for this! When stories about identity theft or hackers appear on the news, we talk to our kids about protecting their passwords and never sharing them with friends. When stories about teens who commit suicide appear, we talk to our kids about the forms of cyber bullying, how to handle cyber bullying if it happens to them, and how they might be doing the cyber bullying even if they think it's just a joke. When online scandals (Anthony Weiner) or feuds (anything Donald Trump tweets!) make the news, we talk to them about how posting certain kinds of photos online can haunt them forever, even if they think they've deleted the photos.
As an organization committed to helping all kids have safe and happy futures, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America are fully committed to spreading the word about internet safety. Their #CyberSafe Program, in partnership with Sprint, helps educate young people and their parents or caregivers on internet safety issues and ways to ensure that they have a safe, happy experience online. Their CyberSafe Futures website is a wonderful resource, with information on cyber bullying, cyber stalking, identity theft, sexual exploitation, and other online issues.
The site also has tips for teen cell phone use, social network use and other ways you can help a child safely navigate the complex online world. Think you don't need this site? Take their Cyber Survivor Challenge Quiz and find out! I thought I was pretty good about ensuring my kids' internet safety, but I took the quiz and learned I wasn't doing 2 important things:
1) I should be Googling my children's names more often! I've Googled their names a couple of times, but information changes so quickly that it's good to check periodically. And it's not just articles or social media sites you have to patrol. In fact, just a few days ago I saw a baby photo of the boys on The Pea's Instagram feed, and she told me she got the photo just by Googling their names and looking through the resulting images! I was surprised at how many images of my kids came up when I Googled their names!
2) I should be setting my kids' Facebook privacy settings to "Custom". Okay, this doesn't really apply since all my kids are under 13 and none of them have a Facebook account.... but it's something that I should keep in mind once they do get Facebook accounts (and for The Pea, that's just 1 year away!). Setting their Facebook viewing privileges to "Friends" or "Friends +" still doesn't give you or your teen complete control over who sees their photos and posts.
The quiz is just 7 questions, so it won't take up too much of your time, and as you can see from my own experience, it can be quite an eye-opener.
Disclosure:This is a sponsored post on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Boys & Girls Clubs of America. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.