The online world is changing. Fast. All the time. And for most parents, getting the work/life balance right is hard enough without keeping up with the latest social media settings, networking apps and internet news that might affect their child..
So what can you do to make sure you’re taking steps to look after your kids online? Because it’s not easy. Especially when it comes to tweens, who are at the crossroads between childhood and adolescence.
Tweens are entering a new game where they don’t know all the rules. Your job as a parent is to act as a sort of referee, and explain how the game works. The good news is, there’s advice out there to help. AVG has recently published an ebook online guide for parents, containing some really helpful principles for protecting your child online.
Here are a few of the top tips:
1. Stay up-to-date
Keeping on top of online news is hard, as we’ve established. But it really is important to do. It might help to streamline your research, and concentrate on a mix of the big boys (Facebook and Twitter) plus some popular online communities, like Club Penguin and Webkinz.
An important part of this process is finding out what your kids are interested in. Have they recently discovered Tumblr? Instagram? Slip questions about sites they might have visited into casual conversations, and then you have some specific sites to research potential threats and security issues.
2. Keep computing communal
It’s best to keep all the family computing in one place, especially for younger tweens and kids under ten. The web is a deep, sprawling place of wonders, but it’s not a place to be explored by young children alone. There are lots of dangers out there, and most of the time kids find them because they head out exploring by themselves.
So pick a room, probably the main family living room, and settle on that as the computing space. Be clear that that’s where the iPad or laptop lives, and that they are not to be taken up to bedrooms.
3. Remember the internet is forever
The web can create a bit of a false sense of security when it comes to ‘publishing’ stuff about ourselves. Because it’s not real publishing, is it? Nothing’s being physically printed? We can just delete it whenever we want. Right?
The answer is that you can delete posts, but as soon as you post something on the internet, anyone that sees it can copy it, save it and share it. So basically, anything you put up online could live forever, therefore it’s important that your kids understand that. Silly, angry or edgy status updates and photos might seem like disposable content when you post them, but they could live online forever – even if you delete them yourself.
4. Don’t forget the four Ps
Sounds like a minefield, doesn’t it? So how is your child supposed to make a well-judged assessment over what they post online, and where they post it?
This is where the four Ps come in: parents, principals, predators and the police. The basic premise is: don’t post anything online that these four should never see. This is a really useful and simple rule to explain to your children, and it’ll prepare them for life online.
Obviously, you might need to spend some time explaining why posting stuff might be a bad idea if any of these four see it. It’s up to you how much detail you go into, but the more you explain the risk of the four Ps reading certain posts you more likely it is that your child will be careful instead of carefree.
5. Use restrictive security settings
Security settings! They’re the bane of any online user’s life. Made deliberately hard to understand and even find – even by major sites such as Facebook – security settings are a confusing labyrinth of privacy boundaries.
But it’s vital you get your head around the key details. If your child has a profile on any social site – and they may be under the site’s minimum age for a profile, which is a different concern – they need to know who can see their profile and where their content can end up.
It may help to go through online security settings for different sites with them to help them understand. Their random online scribblings could easily end up in Google search results next to their name – which could be bad news if one of the four Ps finds it!