Today’s cyberkids most likely learned about the “birds and bees” well before your “parental talk,” plus they know lots of good and bad “stuff,” thanks to the connected online world. However, the exponential growth of social media in the past five years should give parents good reason to have a “parental talk” about being safe online. It is wise to handle this matter before your kids get back to school or shortly thereafter.
While kids are probably online all throughout the year, during the school year they may be more connected – at the library, at school and at home. The good news is that it’s easy to have these conversations– whether you’re a techie or not.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers 4 suggestions and has posted its first blog post, published today as part of a three-part series, urging parents to talk to their children about being safe online.
Here are some ways the FTC says will make these conversations easy and painless.
• Use everyday opportunities to talk to your kids about being online. For example, news stories about cyberbullying or texting while driving can spur a conversation with kids about their experiences and your expectations.
• Communicate your expectations and how they apply in an online context. Sharing your values clearly can help your kids make smarter and more thoughtful decisions when they face tricky situations. For instance, be specific about what’s off-limits — and what you consider to be unacceptable behavior.
• Resist the urge to rush through these conversations with your kids. Most kids need to hear information repeated, in small doses, for it to sink in. If you keep talking with your kids, your patience and persistence will pay off in the long run.
• Work hard to keep the lines of communication open, even if you learn your kid has done something online that you find inappropriate. Listening and taking their feelings into account helps keep conversations afloat. You may not have all the answers, and being honest about that can go a long way.
The first FTC blog post encourages parents to discuss their expectations for appropriate online behavior, and stresses the importance of keeping lines of communication open even when their children do something inappropriate online.
The other blog posts will be posted this month and will focus on safeguarding children’s personal information, including their Social Security numbers, and tips for how to save time and money on back-to-school shopping.