It used to be that the biggest sore spot in a kid’s life was a schoolyard or neighborhood bully that could be diffused by an angry stomp over to the offender’s house and a gold old fashioned mom-to-mom talk. Now thanks to the “world wide web” kids are opened up to a world of possible influences. Not to mention the anonymity and distance of the internet gives people a false courage to say and do things they wouldn’t necessarily do in person.
While you can’t protect them from everything they see and hear there are some guide lines you can follow to help ease possible pains;
– Computer use should be age appropriate. Younger kids have no clue about the bad possibilities of the web and tend to be overly free with pictures and personal information. Discussing this with them is a must and keep younger users in common areas for their online time.
– No secrets. As your kids get older they may start to think they have “private lives” that you need to stay out of, the way they post every aspect of their lives on the net is thought anything but private. At every age make sure you have their passwords and access to ALL of their social sites and have friends and family included in their social networks. Which brings me to my next point…
– Keep up with the world of social media. I know you may think you have a lot better things to do than keep with what came after Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr yet when it comes to your kids, you don’t. To truly know your kids you need to know the trends.
– Constant communication is the key. The teen years can be filled with a lot of grunts and rolled eyes when it comes to parent-kid talks but continue to the dialogue. Use teachable moments from the news to spark conversations and keep as open a line of communication as possible. They may not tell you everything all the time but gathering what you can and maintaining their trust will pay off.
– Keep them busy. Limit online time and distract them from computer usage with healthy activities. Too much of anything is just too much.
– Use the resources available. There are a number of sites that you can use for both you and your kids to monitor what is said and seen about you on the web. Pay sites like ReputationDefender and sites like Safesocial and GoGoStat can help keep you up to date with your personal information.
Most important is to continue to be a good example to your kids. As much as their peer group will play a role in their development you are still the biggest model for who they are. To be sure you are building and protecting their self-esteem, speak well of yourself and others. Loving yourself is yet another way you show them love and build a shield around them.