It’s never too early to pave the way for trust and open communication with your kids.
A while back a co-worker asked me how I dealt with the kids and the internet with regards to privacy. I told him my kids don’t have any privacy, real or implied on the internet. They use computers I paid for, internet I pay for and they are in my house and they are my children so there are no secret passwords and there is no blocking mom out of facebook or twitter or email or cell phones.
As I was writing that last statement I thought ‘whoa, that sounds pretty authoritarian parenting of me’ but it really isn’t as bad as it sounds. Really.
If you start young and right away and impress on the kids that number one on the concern list is safety on the internet and the other thing is that hey, I’m the mom. If you have friends over to the house, I might well walk into the room you’re hanging out in – that’s part of me being the mom. I would expect that if I walk into a room with my 10 year old daughter and a bunch of friends I’m not going to find them smoking and drinking – but if they were, I’d want to know about it.
The same is true of a facebook page or a cell phone text message. I don’t expect my 13 year old son to be bullying someone or having inappropriate picture exchanges but if he was, I’d want to know about it.
What do you do when you “know about it”. Stay Calm and Carry On
Yeah, I know it’s printed on everything but there is a reason for that – it’s good advice.
When I thought that my now 18 year old son was not being cautious with his MSN Messenger account I talked to him about ensuring that he only adds friends if he really knows them. He was around 12 or 13 I think, maybe even 14 years old and was sure he knew it all. Of course he told me, he knew everyone on his friend list and would never accept a request from someone he didn’t know.
So, we went through his list together and he told me who everyone was and how he knew them and I thanked him for going over it with me, that I’d worry less now and he went on his merry way.
Some time later there was a case of an internet stalker thing that made the news and I started to worry about it so while it might have been a little underhanded, I came up with a little devious plot to ensure that my son was being careful.
I got myself a new hotmail account, a new msn messenger account and called myself ‘Tiffany” and asked The Boy to add me as a friend.
Sure enough, he asked – how do I know you? Yay! Good for him but….. internet stalkers don’t give up easily so I persisted – made up a story about meeting him with one of his friends at something (no real details – just like an internet predator might) and fished around with things like “I’m sad that you don’t remember me” – “your friend was tall and cute” – “I am short and cute with long brown hair” and then when he asked for a picture I googled the right term to get a picture of a teenage girl and sent it to him. Right after he got it he agreed to meet me at the mall! OH NO!
Stay Calm and Carry On.
A few minutes later he came into the living room and casually asked me to take him to the mall. I let him start to tell me some sort of fishy story and then I interrupted him with the facts. When I made the point that since ‘Tiffany’ was actually his mom, then ‘Tiffany’ could have been ANYONE – including an internet predator.
I think really the thing is that you have to be straight with your kids. Sneaking around hacking into their stuff is not cool. Creeping into their bedrooms and stealing their cell phones and reading texts is not cool but teaching them safety being clear on what kind of privacy they can expect with their online stuff and cell phones right from the start – I think they can live with it. Just remember – use the power sparingly – don’t sweat the small stuff like a foul word or a virtual cat whistle at a online picture but if something really rocks your world – stay calm and carry on and talk to them like the adults in training that they are. Be straight up with your kids and they might just return the favour.