When we think of protecting our children, we think of very successful campaigns. What child hasn’t heard ‘stranger danger’, ‘D.A.R.E.’, ‘look both ways’ or the classic ‘Stop, drop and roll’. These sayings have kept kids safe since before my time, but what do we do when physical dangers aren’t the only thing threatening the well-being of our kids? In this digital age, kids aren’t playing ball in the street; they’re doing it on their Wii. The youngest generation was born in the digital age and are fluent in it. My niece knew how to look up pictures on my iPhone before she could walk proficiently. In this new age, there’s a whole new set of dangers out there that we need to be protecting our children from. These dangers are available to anyone, anywhere, via the Internet.
The infographic I’ve posted shows the frightening frequency in which children are exposed to all kinds of dangers that threaten them in so many different ways. The worst part is that these dangers are everywhere; in your home, in their school, the library, the city of Denver even has free wifi for the entire downtown area! Now combine that knowledge with the fact that 50% of web traffic is now from mobile devices; iPods, smart phones, and tablets. (Basically your 13 year old’s Christmas list from last year) Accessible from anywhere, available to anyone, it’s easily the most relevant threat to our kids today. It’s impractical to believe that you can keep your kids off the Internet, it’s a incredible tool for any walk of life, whether it’s for work, school or even entertainment. You can’t hide your kids from it.
Don’t despair! There’s still hope, but it’s going to require effort on your part. As parents, we must help our kids to transition safely into the digital world until they’re ready to make their own decisions. Here are some tips on how to do that.
1) You MUST invest in filtering software. There are tons of options, some free, some not, but it’s a must. One of the services that I’ve used before is SafeEyes. It works on mobile devices as well, which is important.
2) Be involved in Social Media. You meet their friends in real life and see them interacting together, online friends should have the same priority. Talk with your kids about different social media sites. Make the decision together on how old they need to be when they join the different sites. Once they do join, make sure that you have an account and make it a rule that they ‘friend’ you, so you can see their activity without seeming too invasive. Remember it’s not just for your kids safety, but being apart of social media sites can be fun, get into it.
3) Use Contracts. I talked to a mother recently who drafted up an easily understood contract for her son before she would get him a smart phone. The contract had different rules on it that her son had to obey to keep his phone. Her logic was, if he’s old enough for a cell phone, he’s old enough to understand some simple rules and the consequences of breaking the rules. One of the items she addressed on her contract was that the phone had to be on the kitchen counter at 9PM, and that her son couldn’t have a lock on the phone. Transparency is vital.
We must be firm on this. These aren’t ‘fuddy-duddy’ parent rules, these are issues that are vital for our children’s health. Dangers are no longer outside forces that we can hide behind the bolts on our front door; there is a new frontier. We must be watchful.