Your kids are growing up in a new world; here’s how to help them navigate it.
The internet has changed everything for our kids, and without any precedent to go on, most parents find themselves making up the rules as they go. There are many successful strategies to help your kids develop a safe and healthy relationship with technology; but whatever you decide, it’s important to lead by example. Here are some ways you can show your kids how a productive adult behaves online.
1. Give yourself a time limit
By far the most important thing to teach your kids about technology is how to unplug. Determine what is a healthy amount of time to spend online; and if you work online, install an app to ration your time on recreational sites. StayFocusd for Chrome or LeechBlock for Firefox are customizable, so you can determine how much time you’ll spend on individual sites, or categories of sites. It helps if your kids have the same rules as you, but even if that isn’t feasible, you can make sure everyone knows the rules and sticks to them. Let your kids know when you’re out of time, and let them see you cut loose and do something else. Being accountable to your kids is one of the ways that being a conscientious dad will help you be a better man all around.
2. Start with supervised browsing
Using the internet requires a certain degree of maturity, and if it isn’t done properly, it can be as dangerous and expensive as a car accident. That’s why it’s important to spend plenty of time browsing
together and talking about what you see, so your kids don’t have to learn about malware, phishing, and pornography the hard way. If you don’t believe your kids are old enough or mature enough to talk about pornography, they’re probably not old enough to be online unsupervised.
3. Don’t expect them to know the rules of the road
When you or your child encounters spammy banner ads or popups, they don’t have any reason to doubt that they’ll win an iPad if they successfully “slap the belly” (or whatever). Your kids will need extensive coaching if you want to keep your family’s identity safe, avoid costly malware cleanup, and protect your kids from bad influences. Set firm rules about what interactions with strangers (if any) you allow your kids to have, what links they’re permitted to click, and what sites they can visit. Back up your rules with content filtering software, and learn how to protect your browser history so that your kids will be accountable for what they do online.
4. Let your kids see you have fun online, safely
Kids tend to get into trouble when they’re bored, and being online is no exception. If you play online games or stream movies, use them as an opportunity to talk about what sites are safe, and the dangers that can come from clicking the first thing that pops up on a Google search. Talk to them about what they want to do online so that you can determine, first, if it’s something they should be doing; and second, how they can do it safely. When you play games, talk about the dangers of sharing personal information with other players, and how to be civil and mature online.
5. Model healthy use of social networks
When you decide your kids are ready to use social networks, have a frank conversation about how friends and classmates should be treated online—and add them to your network so they can see you having civil, good-natured interactions with your acquaintances. Example is everything here; and when they step out of line, talk to them about it just as you would with misbehavior in person.
[About the author: Tiffany Gantt is a staff writer for ApronAddicts.com, a website dedicated to the love of cooking and looking good while you do it! You can often find her getting creative in the kitchen as she whips up something yummy in one of her flirty, color coordinated aprons.]