Being a parent has never been easy, but it can be even more challenging once your kids are using the internet. Even if you're not up on the latest technologies and platforms, though, you have an important role — maybe the most important — in your kids' online lives. This guide will prepare you for the conversations you need to have with kids when they first start using digital devices, as they grow and their online activities change, and when things go wrong.
The guide is divided into three sections that each deal with a different aspect of digital citizenship, to teach your kids to Respect People's Feelings, to Respect Privacy and to Respect Property online.
Five Key Tips for Digital Parenting
Before you get started, here are five key tips to guiding your kids to safe and responsible digital lives:
Don't be scared!
You hear a lot of scary stuff about kids and the internet, but the fact is that most kids do just fine. Think of the internet as being like a swimming pool: the best way to keep your kids safe there is to teach them how to stay safe.
Talk to your kids.
Don't wait until things have already gone wrong to talk to your kids about online issues, and don't just have one “big talk.” What your kids need from you is guidance, so they're prepared to deal with problems before they happen, supportfrom you when things do go wrong, and for you to reinforcethese messages by continuing to talk to them as they get older and are more able to make decisions for themselves. The three main sections of this guide have lots of tips on how to talk about all of the major online issues. If you have older kids and haven't talked to them about the internet yet, don't worry: it's never too late to start!
Be a part of your kids' media lives.
What your kids are watching, playing, reading and listening to is a big part of the person they're turning into, and their online lives can be just as important to them as the “real world.” Younger kids are usually glad when their parents show an interest in the things they like, so get them to show you how their new favourite game works or why they're so excited about joining a new social network. You can also use media to talk about sensitive issues: kids may be more comfortable talking about sexting or bullying when you're discussing a character in a TV show than someone they know.
Be the person your kids come to when they have problems online.
A lot of the time, kids don't want to go to their parents when things go wrong because they're afraid they'll get in trouble. When your kids start going online make sure they know clear procedures on what to do if things go wrong, like if they can't figure out a game or they accidentally access something unpleasant. (Check out the “How do I talk about ” and “How do I ” sections below for some of these procedures.) If they're in the habit of coming to you about the little things, they'll be a lot more likely to talk to you about the big ones.
Set rules and communicate values.
The internet may seem like the Wild West sometimes, but the rules you set still affect how kids behave online. What's most important is that your rules are a way of getting across the values you want your kids to live by, that way they'll keep living by them even when they're grown up and out on their own.