Who’s afraid of the big bad Web?

Family using laptop togetherHands up if you have ever worried about your child’s activity on the Internet. Did your hand go up as fast as mine? Whether you are the parent of a pre-schooler or the parent of a teenager, the issue of safety and technology is something that we will all have to deal with at some…in fact, MANY, points in time.

Technology is a wonderful thing, and I am the first to confess my love for the Web in particular. As this ‘new fangled thing’ called the World Wide Web is obviously here to stay, we, as parents, need to be aware of its benefits as well as downfalls.

Let’s take a look at the downfalls first as they are the ones we tend to hear about the most:

The Web gives children potential access to a lot of content that parents need to be aware of. From computer viruses and scams to predators and pornographic images, your child can stumble upon all kinds of material that you would not want them to be exposed to.

But let’s not forget that children can also be the ones to cause damage to others. They need to be educated on appropriate behaviours regarding cyber bullying, sexting, and material they upload to social networks and YouTube.

Now let’s think about how the Web can benefit our children:

Technology and the Web can help children grow as people as they facilitate learning about the world around them, communicating effectively, and fostering their creative skills. 

This may come as a surprise but gaming has particularly become a popular method of teaching children as it helps them stay interested and active in their own learning.

So what am I getting at?

Well, what I am trying to say is that children can get the most out of technology if we, as parents, learn as much as we can about it and learn how to guide them to use it safely. There is no point in sticking our heads in the sand and pretending it doesn’t exist. If we don’t teach our children how to walk across the road safely, how will they ever learn to go out on their own? It’s the same with the Web; one day they will be on their own – with or without the knowledge we give them.

Now it’s your turn

The most important thing you can do for your child is to keep the digital conversation flowing. Give them some guidelines but also let them teach you a thing or two about technology. They will appreciate the boundaries as well as your respect.

Don’t be afraid to learn how to be involved in your kid’s digital life. 

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Learning from tragedy

I remember driving out of the parking area at work to pick up my daughter. I had received a phone call from the school saying she was feeling sick and could I come and get her. My daughter needed her mummy. I rushed to get her immediately, like a mother bear eager to protect her cub. As I steered out of the drive way I noticed the clouds getting grey and tiny spots of water slowly tapping my windscreen. It was going to be a cold, stormy night.

A solemn voice came on the radio; it was the afternoon news reporter. She said that a teenage girl had been missing for two days and it was suspected she had gone to meet someone she had just met on Facebook. I clearly remember closing my eyes and silently praying that it was not true; that perhaps she had run away to a friend’s house.

I had no reason to have a vested interest in this girl. Other than the fact that I am a mother. And a human.

Although my two girls are still very young, I knew that one day I would have to face the reality that they too would be branching out into cyberspace and coming across people they don’t know in ‘real life’. This could happen to anyone.

The next day there was an update on the teenager. She had been murdered by the stranger she met on Facebook. The charming young man she was talking to in cyberspace turned out to be an experienced predator that lures young girls in with fake social media accounts.  I knew right then and there that safety on the Web was my calling. I had to learn everything there was to know about keeping my children safe in cyberland.

In real life, I teach my daughters to be aware of their surroundings, not to talk to strangers, and to always be kind to others and report any bullying they may come across. These rules apply on the Web too.

When the lines between the virtual and physical world are blurred we can have tragic circumstances like the one this poor teenager faced. Somewhere this teenager’s mother is longing for her child, longing to hold her in her arms again, longing for the ability to keep her child safe. I vow to learn from this woman’s tragedy and start guiding my own children’s digital footprints.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is your teen’s Facebook status putting them in danger?

 Millions of teenagers around the world are using Facebook on a daily basis, but do they really know the consequences of their status updates?
Recently, an Australian teenager posted photos on her Facebook page of large wads of cash that her grandmother was counting. As a result, two masked men invaded her mother’s home trying to find it. The money was not in the house but they got away with a small amount of cash. Fortunately, no one was injured.
This incident begs the question: do you know what your kids are really up to on Facebook?
As parents, we are responsible for bringing our kids up and teaching them right from wrong, but how many of us know what to teach them when it comes to the digital age? Everything on the Web is persistent and can follow us for the rest of our lives. It is up to parents to guide our children through their Internet footprints so they don’t live to regret the choices they make in their digital lives.
The case above shows unawareness of privacy and trust issues on the Internet. We must teach our children that they never really know who is watching in our real lives as well as virtual.
Have you had a dangerous experience caused by Facebook use?

Being cybersmart

The closer my daughter gets to starting school, the more I panic about her being exposed to the World Wide Web. Obviously I am not going to let her be on the computer alone yet but it doesn’t feel like it will be long before she is whining for mum to stop peering over her shoulder.

I have been visiting the Cybersmart site quite a bit to keep myself educated and see what sort of things I can teach her. One great tool is the Cybersafety Help Button  which you can download to your computer and your child can click on it any time they feel they need help, advice, or to report something that is concerning them on the Web. It can help them feel that they are not alone in cyberspace. I will definitely be downloading this for all of my Internet enabled devices!

Now if only there was a button I could click on when my kids decide to misbehave. Would be handy to have someone magically appear and give me help then!