It never ceases to amaze me how many 9 and 10 year olds I see on Facebook. Once, I made the mistake of questioning a parent about this – assuming they surely did not know that their child lied about their age, and now has a mostly public profile, visible to the entire world, where they were giving out personal information like their address, phone number, and when they were home alone. The angry and offended response, “Yes, of course I know. I monitor what my kids put up,” ended the conversation.
I have to believe that these parents simply don’t understand the internet, and social media, and privacy, and pretty much anything else related to personal security online. It’s shocking. Although, I’ve never met a parent “in the know” about such things that isn’t constantly alarmed at what kids are sharing online. Protecting our kids online is, I believe, one of the most important things we can think about as parents, these days. There are now 2 talks to start early and have often – the sex talk, and the internet talk. It’s time to have the internet talk.
Having the Talk
My conversations with my oldest daughter began when she could read well enough to type in a web address on her own. I’ll never forget my horror when I heard her say, “Daddy… what do I click here?” and I saw the shocking results of the google search, “games 2 girly girls play.” She was trying to find a game for her and her younger sister. Resourceful? Absolutely – I was pretty proud of her having the knowledge that she could simply search to find something exactly for her. But her innocence made her a prime target for some pretty unsavory content. Until now, the internet was simply the place where Dad seemed to find an unending supply of silly click and play flash games.
We setup a rule that is still in effect today – you may NOT search or look for things on the internet without an adult there with you. That got me thinking about how easy it is for kids to find things that isn’t appropriate, and with the help of Clay from DadLabs – I kid-proofed her iPod as well… no more Safari or Youtube there!.
This started a great ongoing conversation about safety on the internet, and what is appropriate to share. Everytime one of her friends gets on Facebook, and posts a picture of themselves wearing tiny PJ’s, or shares inappropriate content… we have the talk again. That stuff you put on Facebook isn’t private – it’s not just for your friends. It’s for everyone in the world to see – and some of those people aren’t good people. When we share – we do it carefully, don’t give out personal information, don’t talk about being home alone, etc.
There are a ton of options to keep your age-appropriate child safe online. If you’re not aware of Facebook’s privacy settings, then do us all a favor, and yank your internet connection out of your house, and go back to sending letters. You can’t keep your child safe, if you don’t understand how to protect the stuff you share yourself. Try these tips:
- Facebook – the age is 13. Not because of Facebook policy, but because of Federal Law. It’s okay to tell your child “NO” – they won’t die.
- Facebook – There’s a little link at the top just for Privacy settings. Click it – you’d be surprised at how much others can see about you. Put your child’s setting as secure and private as possible. For yourself, you may choose to be more public (I do) – but remember that you can set individual posts to different privacy settings, and share only with certain people or groups.
- iPhone/iPod/iPad – Go to your Settings App, then General Settings > Restrictions. You can turn off Safari, so they can’t access the web in general, disable installing apps, set ratings restrictions for content, and even stop them from sharing their location with apps, and a ton of other stuff. No child should have unsupervised and unfettered access to the internet. Period.