“Too much time on the computer is not good for your brain. Playing with toys and outside is important to keep you healthy and smart.”
“There are bad people who may try to hurt children on the internet, it is important not to tell anyone your name, address, telephone, number, school, or anything else about yourself on the internet.
“You need to ask, Daddy or I before you go on the internet.”
For older kids the discussions need to be more open and less controlling. (See below)
2. Don’t Lecture and Moralize:
This was the hardest thing for me to learn but it is probably the most important parenting advice ever. Kids of all ages do not like being lectured. That means don’t get on your soapbox when your kids say, “You are so overprotective, facebook is not so dangerous.” or “All my friends do it, their parent’s let them.”
That is easier said then done. I would love to respond with, “Really, it isn’t dangerous? If that is your attitude, missy, then for sure you are never touching the computer again.” I also have always particularly loved the line, “If all your friends jumped off the Empire State building would you?” And I wouldn’t stop there, I think if I could, I would launch into a talk entitled: “The Dangers of The Internet and Why The Modern World Is Not Good For Kids.”
Although, I would feel justified in saying all the above, my kids would roll their eyes, and look for the nearest escape route . Besides, I always remind myself that when my kids tell me I am an uncool, helicopter parent, they are really saying, “Please let me do whatever it is you are not going to let me do. If I can’t I will be considered a loser.” This is a fate worse than death for kids.
3. Involve Kids In Discussions About The Internet:
Kids like it when we listen to their opinions. This does not mean that we are agreeing with what they are saying. We are just trying to keep the channels of communication open. This is the best way for kids to actually hear you. Be as non-judgmental as you can. You can try saying:
“We just went to a lecture on internet safety. We were told that teens and adults are having more and more problems with addictive online behaviors. The speaker spoke about some things we didn’t even know about, online gambling, inappropriate video games, cyber bullying, cyber suicides, obsessive texting and e-mailing and then the stuff we knew about, like pornography and predators. We want you to have the facts. We want to talk to you so that you are aware of the dangers and so that you can protect yourself. Now that you want a facebook account we really need to discuss this.”
After that whole scary speech the best thing to do is invite further conversation by asking some open-ended questions:
“We are interested to know what you think about all of this information?”
“What have you heard about the dangers of the internet?”
“Have any of your friends have any problems with facebook?”
“What are the views of kids your age on this stuff- what precautions are kids taking to protect themselves?”
“Are you and your friends looking out for each other on the internet?”
“Have you or your friends experienced cyber bullying?
“If you know that what you post stays in cyberspace forever, do kids have someone they can check with to make sure that what they are writing is appropriate?
It is better not to try to prove any points just show them that you respect them and value their opinion:
“Do you think it is true what they say about cyber-bullying, what do you think?”
“How do your friends feel about the dangers of the internet?”
There are lots of ways we can encourage responsible online behavior. I believe that educating kids while their young, avoiding lecturing and having frank and open discussion with our kids is probably the best way to do so. In our next post, we will discuss how to involve our kids in making rules so that everyone can use the internet safely.