The internet offers a world of opportunity. Around the globe, people of all ages are using the internet to build online profiles, send messages, pictures and videos to friends and even create alter egos. While the internet has facilitated how we live, it also poses many risks, especially to youth. Children face online threats from inappropriate content, inappropriate conduct and inappropriate contact. With the help of concerned adults, we can mitigate the risks that youth face online.
Talking to children about internet security, however, can be difficult. If you are having difficulty deciding where to begin, here are some helpful hints that can help you talk to your children about being safe online.
After all, even toddlers see their parents use all kinds of devices. As soon as your child is using a computer, a cell phone or any mobile device, it’s time to talk to them about online behavior, safety and security. As a parent, you have the opportunity to talk to your children about what’s important before anyone else does.
Create and open and honest environment
Children look to their parents to help guide them. Be supportive and positive. Listening and taking their feelings into account helps keep conversation afloat. You may not have all the answers, but being honest about that can go a long way toward building trust.
Even if your children are comfortable approaching you, don’t wait for them to start the conversation. Use everyday opportunities to talk to your kids about being online. For example, a TV program featuring a teen online or using a cell phone can start a discussion about what to do – or not do – in similar circumstances. News stories about internet scams or cyber bullying, for instance, also can help start a conversation with children about their experiences and your expectations.
Communicate your values
Be up front about your values and how they apply in an online context. Communicating your vales clearly can help your children make smarter and more thoughtful decisions when they face difficult situations.
Resist the urge to rush through conversations with your children. Most children need to hear information repeated, in small doses, for it to sink in. If you keep talking with your children, your patience and persistence will pay off in the long term. Work hard to keep the lines of communication open, even if you learn your child has done something online you find inappropriate.
These are some simple ideas for how to start the conversation about internet safety. For information on topics to discuss with your children from the Federal Trade Commission go to http://1.usa.gov/Z3vGqD.