Remember that commercial from back in the day that said, “It’s ten o’clock. Do you know where your kids are?”
My friends and I used to spoof it all the time, but now that I’m a parent, I don’t see anything funny about that question.
Back then, knowing where your kids were was the only guarantee that they weren’t up to no good.
As long as they were in the house, parents knew their children weren’t doing drugs, loitering, stealing, or having sex. Stay at home, stay out of trouble. That’s how it worked.
The world that we live in now is much different.
Kids can sit right in front of their parents and participate in irresponsible activities.
Yup, the introduction of technology into our lives has also introduced a new level of awareness that parents need to have to ensure that our children are safe. We need to be vigilant about being aware of what our kids are doing online.
Take my own tween, for instance.
There was that one time when she decided to do a Google search of her name just to see what would come up.
You’d be surprised at how many people with the same name as her like to dress skimpily and pose provocatively. I certainly was!
Another time she asked Siri, the iPad’s built in personal assistant, a question about being sick. Siri thought the “s” was a “d”, and was set to share all that the internet had to offer on the subject.
Good thing I was in the room to catch those things, but what about when I’m not around? What then?
Even good kids make dumb choices.
It’s been scientifically proven that a human brain isn’t fully developed until age 25. That means there are a lot of opportunities between birth and young adulthood for them to make dumb choices.
We need to expect it.
Technology, the internet, and having access to devices make it easy for a kid who is left to their own thinking to mess up.
That’s why I anticipate it. And I work with my child to minimize those bad choice.
I do that by educating her, utilizing tools that will help me to monitor her online activities, and setting boundaries around her use of technology that increase based on her maturity level.
How do we educate our kids about the internet?
How do we keep kids safe online? The first step is to have frank conversations with our kids about how the internet works and how to use it. This is called digital literacy, and it’s an important part of raising kids in these modern times.
The next thing is to be clear with your kids about your expectations of them online.
My daughter knows that we expect her behavior on the internet to be just the same as if we were right in the room with her. She is to be thoughtful and kind. She isn’t allowed to talk to strangers. And she knows that we’re monitoring all of her online activity.
My husband and I do everything from monitor direct messages and Facetime (on the iPad) requests, to checking her search history.
As a tween, she’s just not mature enough to use the internet without our support.
So we’re going to be there to support her.
Other ways we support her:
● Schedule internet and device use according to her daily routine. She has set times when she’s allowed to use screens, and she knows when that time is up.
● Put a timer on her devices for internet use. It’s hard for tweens to know when they’ve had enough, so her screen time limits make it easy for us to shut things down without even having to say a word.
● Block certain internet sites and apps. There are certain websites that are just not for children. We block sites so she can’t even stumble on them.
Our kids live in a digital age.
Here’s the thing. Our kids are going to have a digital presence.
At this point, many of their schools require it. It’s how they connect with their friends. They are living in a digital world.
In order for our kids to be successful students, and later adults, they’re going to have to know how to navigate the internet and everything that comes along with it.
Social media isn’t going anywhere.
In fact, as more and more social networks pop up, the farther away I get from being a tech savvy mom.
By the time my youngest child is a teenager, it’s possible that I won’t have a clue of what’s going on at all.
Still, I have to try. It’s my job to keep my kids safe online.
We can’t do it alone, y’all.
We’re going to need to have open conversations with our children about using the internet safely.
Our kids are depending on us to teach them how to use this great big tool, and to be there to protect them.
I mean, after all, it’s 2023—do you know where your children are?