Newsletter: Parenting Logic: Securing your child’s online identity
Securing your child’s online identity
Technology is growing so fast that it is difficult to keep up with the changes. Trying to keep up just for your own benefit is difficult enough, but keeping up to stay ahead of your child is even more daunting task. As an involved and caring parent you are aware of what your child is doing at school. You keep up with their grades and meet with their teachers, view their homework and participate in their activities. As an involved and caring parent you are also aware of your child’s friends, who they are, where they live and what type of activities they are involved in with your child and how they treat your child. Just as the parent makes themselves familiar with their child’s “real time” life, friends and activities; the parent needs to be familiar with the child’s virtual life, friends and activities. Your child’s safety and future depends on you providing them guidance and rules to follow.
Times are changing, more and more schools, colleges, employers, friends, community appointments and other important agencies that your child are and will come into contact with are relying on online identities to find out more about you and your child. Some are looking to the person’s online identity to make decisions to hire/fire, accept/deny, promote or reprimand a person. Not only is it important that your child develop the skills and personal characteristic to succeed in life but it is also important they develop an online identity that is in line with being a successful adult. More importantly you are influencing them by keeping their online identity safe and you should be serving as a healthy role model for your child by following the same guidelines you provide them.
Some examples to follow would be
Do not post, share, like, subscribe to anything that is not respectable to others or yourself.
Do not post, share, like, subscribe to anything that portrays drinking, or drugging or sexually inappropriate photos or comments of one’s self, others or in the context of condoning the activity.
Do not post, share, like, subscribe to anything that would or could be interpreted as contradicting to the online identity you are wanting to portray or is in contradiction to who you are or want to be seen as.
Do not post, share, like, subscribe to anything that could be seen as negative, judgmental of yourself or others.
Do not post, share, like, subscribe to anything that implies bullying of another person, group or organization.
Do not post, share, like, subscribe to anything that is an extreme negative opinion, religious or is extreme left or right politically unless this is in line with who you are and you choose to be professionally as you may cut off or offend future contacts that may be helpful to you in building your future. Keep these opinions private and personal as you build your online identity.
As your child becomes acquainted with online devices so should you be acquainted with the parental settings and security. Teach your child what is safe and what is not. The Internet offers many opportunities for learning and exploring the world that never before has been at our finger tips. Depending on where your child goes on the Internet your child will learn the immense educational wealth it has to offer or the frightening horrors that also lurk just around the corner. Teach them what sites are acceptable and what sites are not, what to look for in a scam or how to know they are in danger or that the person they have contact with could be a predator. Periodically check the sites your child visits by reviewing their history and making sure you are updating the securities of your computer. Teach your child how to distinguish fraudulent emails and websites. Familiarize yourself with search engines such as Google, Bing and research online safety tools, stay updated on resources in this area. Know the sites your children visit. There are many more sites out there than Facebook, Youtube, tumblr, twitter or blogger. Children are naturally curious and they will wander the internet or check out things they have heard about. Reprimanding them will not stop them but making them aware you are watching and setting strict but appropriate parental settings and providing them with a known consequence if they violate the rules will help them to stay safe.
Developing a contract with your child can be helpful in that it spells out the expectations you have of your child. It tells them you are aware of their online activities and will be watching and will help keep them safe. A contract can be added to, deleted from and expanded depending on the child’s age, development and privileges based on their demonstration of their ability to be trusted.
Guidelines and rules for online safety and identity of your child
The child is not to give out your full name, their full name, address or phone number or any identifying information before checking with the parent for approval.
The child is to report immediately to the parent if anything feels uncomfortable so they have guidance to avoid undesirable and /or unsafe situations.
The child is not use a credit or debit card without permission. When funds are needed there should be a designated credit/debit that is used for online purchases to avoid, track any problems and help to contain identify theft.
Usage of online devices should be defined by the amount of time they can be used online and by website restrictions to ensure appropriate safety according to age and development of the child. Children are at highest risk when they spend hours on their devise or computer and spend those hours in the evening unsupervised.
Bullying is to be reported immediately to the parent so that the parent can report to the online authorities where the bullying occurred.
Acceptance or entering online offers for free gifts, rewards, prizes is prohibited and are to be considered scams and need to be reported to the parent.
Arranging to meet someone in person you met online but have never met in,”real life”, is prohibited unless you have discussed this with the parent and the parent has given approval and an adult has arranged to go with you.
All passwords need to be accessible to parents at all times.
Sexually explicit websites should be restricted and prohibited in the parental controls and defined consequences need to be set for the child if they are found to have violated this rule.
The rules and guidelines apply to their usage not the devices. This would mean that if the child were at a friend’s house, at school or using a device that is not their own they are to follow these guidelines and rules. The consequences still apply and will still be enforced. If they choose to take a chance to violate these rules out of the house or on another persons device and are found out, the consequences should be set forth to reflect the severity of this violation.
Violation of the guidelines you set with your child should be followed up with defined consequences that are appropriate for their age, and development, be able to be monitored and enforced and are strong enough that violation will be avoided. . Having guidelines that you cannot enforce is useless. Children will eventually figure out that you do not intend or do not know how to follow through on your rules and will defy the rules knowing they will not or cannot be enforced leaving them vulnerable and unsafe online. (See previous Parent logic articles on rules and consequences)