When should I start talking to my daughter about using social sites and apps responsibly?
As soon as your daughter begins to go online, you'll want to explain that the Internet has rules that must be followed. Through the primary school years, you'll sit with your daughter as you visit sites or play apps together, and you'll gradually taper off into a more supervisory role. Here are some of the key rules for online interaction to discuss.
• Be a good digital citizen: A good rule of thumb: If they wouldn't do something in real life, they shouldn't do it online.
• Avoid strangers: Tell your kids that people aren't always who they say they are online. Explain that if someone they don't know talks to them, they shouldn't respond and should let you know.
• Keep some stuff private: Your name, address, phone number, and how much money your parents make should stay private. But your hobbies, favorite ice cream flavor, or pet's name all can be fun stuff to share with like-minded folks online.
If your daughter does end up joining a social network -- whether she's 10 or 16 -- here are some ground rules that work for many parents:
Use privacy settings: Privacy settings aren't foolproof, but they can be helpful. Take the time to learn how privacy settings work on your daughter’s favorite sites and apps, and teach your kids how to control the information they make public or private. Encourage them to check privacy settings regularly, since sites' policies often change.
Tell your kids to think before they post: Remind them that everything can be seen by a vast, invisible audience (otherwise known as friends-of-friends-of-friends), and, once something's online, it's hard to take back.
Be a friend and follower: Each family will have different rules, but, especially for younger kids, it's a good idea for parents to have access to their kids' pages, at least at first, to be sure that what's being posted is appropriate. Parents can help keep their children from doing something they'll regret later.
Keep private information private: Don't share your home address or other sensitive information online.
Be respectful of others: Teenagers may use social media to act out because they feel anonymous and that their actions are consequence-free. Make sure they understand that the Internet is a giant community that works best when everyone respects each other.
Rules to live by:
No Underage Facebooking
Did you know that no one under the age of 13 is permitted to join Facebook? However, there is no real way for Facebook to truly enforce it, because anyone can lie about their year of birth. You need to make sure that your child stays away from Facebook until 13 AND until you are comfortable with him or her having an account. There are measures put in place, such as reporting an underage child, but ultimately, it should be the parent who has the say on when and if that account gets created.
Check Privacy Settings
Create Ground Rules
If your kids are old enough to be using the computer on their own, they are old enough to understand that there are rules they need to abide by. Breaking them should not have a lesser consequence than if they broke a rule in the offline world. The best way for families to agree on ground rules is to create a contract that all parties must sign.
Get To Know What Your Daughter’s Habits Are
You don’t need to be a super sleuth and spy on your kid’s every online move, but it is important to be aware of the kinds of sites she is on and the people she is associating with. You get to know the friends she’s hanging out with at school, and her online friends shouldn’t be any different. One of the contract rules should be that you have full access to her Facebook friends and can take a look whenever you wish.
Keep the Computer in a Central Location
It’s much easier to keep tabs on any online activity when the computer is located in a high-traffic zone than if your child is using a computer in the privacy of her own room. Place the computer in a central location like your kitchen or family room so that everything is out in the open.
Urge Your Kids to Avoid Questionnaires, Free Giveaways and Contests
A pop-up ad appears and tells kids they can win a free iPad by simply clicking the link. Anyone would be tempted by this kind of offer, but kids are particularly susceptible, so it’s important to warn kids against falling for this kind of Internet trick. Many of these ruses are attempts to glean personal information. Inform kids that even if they are forwarded a fun questionnaire from a friend, it’s best to close the window and not participate.
Monitor the Pictures Your Child Posts Online
In an ideal world, your child would never post a photo of herself online, but that might not be entirely realistic. If she wants to share photos with her friends via email or a social networking site, be sure you know exactly which pictures are being posted. Make sure the content of the photo is completely innocuous and that no identifiable places in the background are noticeable
Limit Mobile Phone Use
Just as you would limit use of a computer, TV or gaming system, you can do the same with a mobile phone. Set rules for the device, only allowing mobile phone usage at certain hours in the evening or after homework has been completed. If you have teens of driving age, the most important rule to enforce is that under no circumstances should cell phones ever be used while driving. Phones should be kept off so incoming text sounds aren’t a distraction or should be kept in the glove compartment, out of reach
Teach Kids about an Online Reputation
Many kids don’t seem to understand the permanence of the online world. Make sure to stress to your kids what a digital footprint is and the impact inappropriate messages or images could have if a future college administrator or employer were to stumble upon them. what goes online stays online.
Talk to Kids about Online Dangers
You may feel like you’re scaring your kids when talking to them about the dangers of being online, but it’s better for them to be scared than to be unaware. Having an open line of communication is crucial the minute your kids start using the Internet more independently. Parry Aftab, noted online safety and privacy expert and Executive Director of WiredSafety, says, “Who's a stranger online? Everyone is! You need to remind your children that these people are strangers and that the standard rules always apply.”