by Jennifer Shakeel
While the internet is a beautiful thing it is also a very dangerous thing, especially to our children. For years we as parents have feared the online predator, that could pose as a child and lure our children away from us and do terrible things to them. Today, our fear is not just of strangers… but of people that we know or at least know our children. I am talking about cyber bullies, who taunt our children online and on their cell phones. Technology has provided bullies a new way to get at our children, and we as parents need to stay on top of what is taking place to help protect our children.
I am sorry, but I don’t think young children need to text message. I am not even completely sure they need cell phones… really what does a 10 year old need a cell phone for? Our oldest daughter has a cell phone, she got it in 7th grade. The reason was that she was very active in school activities and so was our son. It was difficult to be in two places at once, so she needed a way to get a hold of me when her practice was complete and I was at our son’s practice. One thing I did not allow though was texting. It is not a part of our plan. She cannot receive them or send them. I don’t care that all her friends can text and that she has to tell them she can’t, I would rather be embarrassed then hurt.
Be An Apparent Parent
Your child does not need you to be their best friend. They need you to be their parent. You can still be seen as cool and enforce restrictions on what they are doing online and on their phones. On our family computer we have a logging system that runs in stealth and records everything everyone does on the computer and it does not allow you to visit websites of questionable nature unless my husband or I okay the site. The laptops are checked daily, especially after our children have used them… and they are not allowed to be online if my husband or I are not in the room. Yes, I read their emails and I check the internet history to see where they have been and what they have been searching for. And they know that we check because they have been caught doing things they are not suppose to do.
Monitor Online Activity
There are many programs that you can download onto your computer or your child’s computer that will track what they do online. It will log passwords and login names. You don’t have to sit and look over their shoulders while they are online, but you should be paying attention to what they are doing and who is saying what to them.
We tell our children all the time to listen to us. When do we listen to them? Listen when they talk about school, their friends, things that are happening at school, things that are going on with their friends… listen when they are on the phone. Oh I know you are cringing, but how much will you cringe when your child is a victim of sexting? What will you do after your child has been bullied on the phone? They don’t have to talk in the same room as you, but be close enough to where you can atleast overhear what is being sad.
Lock Social Sites
I understand that it is all the craze for teenagers to have a MySpace page, or a Facebook Page… I urge you to spend some time on those sites before you let them create “their” space. They may have a page and you don’t even know it. If they are minors as a parent you can place a lock on their page that makes it so that the only way a person can visit their page or contact them is for that person to be approved as a friend. Know who their friends are on these places.
Talk to Your Kids
It disturbs me how many parents don’t talk to their kids, they talk at them. Carry a conversation with them. Listen to them, talk to them. Let them know that they can talk to you. Yes, there are going to be times that they are going to say something to you that is going to make want to put your head in a pillow and scream, but listen to them. There are times that our daughter says things to my husband and I, that she would say if one of her friends were around… that I look at my husband and go, “Does she know we are her parents?” To which he smiles and says yes. Her friends talk to us because there isn’t a threat. We will listen to them, and talk to them like they are humans.
Teach Your Child to Stand Up For Themselves
It doesn’t matter if it is their best friend giving them a hard time or some punk kid wanting to ruin their day. Teach your children that they need to stand up for themselves. That no one has the right to say bad things about them or do things to them that makes your child uncomfortable. Your child must value who they are, they need to know that it is not okay to let someone walk all over them.