I know I write on protecting your children in the digital world fairly regularly, but it is something that we need as a community to revisit often.
We teach students about this and we have IT systems that both filter and monitor student internet activity, but only at school.
The core of cyber-safety, is the same as every principle of raising children to adulthood: to become good citizens of character, able to make independent and wise decisions. It’s a big job, as you know, and involves partnership between the school and home.
Responsibilities change as the child grows, just like road-safety: from hold my hands and look left and right (and if they run away regularly get one of those leash things), to ride along the paths with me, walk independently, ride a bike independently, drive a car.
Here are some good ideas. I’m writing off the top of my head, not literally; they are ideas that are not all mine; but gleaned through involvement in safety programs, research, practice and experience:
1) Don’t trust safety filtering programs to protect your children, most can be fairly easily bypassed. We have a team of experts that have to continually work on our own school safety filters. I was speaking to one of our IT guys this week who commented that Australia tried to create a nation-wide filtering service for our protection. It was hacked in 15 minutes by a young person.
2) Try to avoid the idea that any technology you buy or give to your children is “theirs.” It’s yours, given to them for specific purposes like ummmm: education and responsible communication. Like milk-crates, “these devices remain the property of Parents Inc.” and must be used according to your rules.
3) Realise that when you give a child a smart-phone or a modern iPod or gaming device (portable or not) you are generally giving them unfettered access to the internet.
4) Know all your child’s passwords on any networking program and make it routine that you check their communications and histories.
5) Never let a child take an internet connected device into their bedroom or other private space.
6) Schedule the time they can use devices. Create a time (depending on child’s age) where all devices are gathered and recharged for the night where kids don’t have access to them. They do not need their smartphones or iPad with them for alarm clocks etc. They shouldn’t be looking at screens for 40-60 minutes before trying to sleep (I know I’m being a total hypocrite saying this).
7) Access to networking, digital communication: Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram depends on age and maturity. Every other kid their age isn’t doing it and you are not the worst parent in the world. Think about it. Facebook, who live for getting people to join them, say “don’t sign up if you are under thirteen” They must have good reason. This should be across the board. You know how dangerous email communication can be for adults with crossed-wires and misunderstanding, it multiplies exponentially for younger brains. I’ve seen so many fights, flair-ups and friendships damaged, just through inability to digitally communicate correctly.
8) Don’t let your children share their passwords with anyone else at school or let other children use their devices. They can look at things together, but your child must realise that they are the sole users and take sole responsibility for their device when not at home.
That should help.