What is between you and your child is only yours, and I don’t want to tell
you how to raise your kids or what to tell them and when.
Moreover, each child is different, and each family sees things differently.
For those reasons, I don’t want to seem like I know the right way for all parents to behave,
no one knows, and there is probably no single right way anyway.
But one day, you may want to discuss this topic with your child. And I
know from experience that talking about it with children may seem
confusing and difficult to many parents, so I wrote this chapter to give
you some general cyber safety communication advice.
The best tip I can give you is to start early. Because the sooner you
begin communicating about this subject with your child, the easier it will
be to keep your child safer, wiser, and more transparent with you.
I broke my bits of advice into 3 age groups because each age group
faces different challenges. And parents should speak with a 6-year-old
kid about different things than you would speak about with a 16-year-old
teenager – feel free to take the advice you like and ignore what you don’t.
But regardless of your child’s age, I suggest you read all 3 parts because
each age group builds on the previous in terms of fundamentals. And
many things are relevant to any age group, but I won’t repeat them.
This is usually when most kids begin to spend time without supervision
in cyberspace for the first time, they know how to surf the web
themselves, but they are still super naive.
And it’s also when they go to school and get exposed to older kids that
expose them to things. This is nothing like kindergarten anymore.
But it’s also the right time for many families to start building the
foundation of the right and safe online habits. And it’s the perfect age to
discover the internet together because it will establish the norms of you
as a parent being involved and that it’s normal to communicate about it.
Stay involved and talk with your child about their experiences online. It’s
even better if they get used to using devices connected to the internet in
the living room where you can physically keep an eye on them.
It’s always best at any age to talk with them in a none judgemental way
about their online activities, like an interested friend, and ask them about
what they like and what they discovered online regularly.
This is the best time to start developing the habit of communication
about it, and you can use those open conversations to teach them
simple principles that will help them later, things like:
Never agree to meet people that they don’t know in real life without your parents.
Let your parents know whenever someone you don’t know is messaging you.
Only install something with your parents checking it first to ensure it is safe.
That CyberBulling is terrible, and what to do if someone bullies someone they know.
And anything else you find is essential to educate your child about at the right time.
At this age, many kids feel very smart, and sexual interest begins to
show up. However, they are not fully aware of their actions yet, but they
are still kids with a lot of curiosity.
And based on today’s online norms, even big social platforms give kids
an extra degree of decision-making when they reach those ages, so this
is about the time you should expect your child to want more free leeway
to explore the cyber world and make decisions themselves.
It’s harder to stay involved at this stage because kids seek more privacy.
Still, you can and should talk with them on this topic occasionally.
Many parents choose to talk at this stage more about privacy, checking
social network activity, and ensuring that they are not exposed to
inappropriate content of any kind (manually or with the help of apps).
It helps if your child is already used to having limits on screen time and
that it’s ok that you restrict them from using some sites and apps.
Parenting isn’t easy, and good parenting requires even more focus, time,
and effort. And that’s why it’s essential to remember that developing the
proper habits requires time, but it pays off later.
Set or talk about boundaries, and explain why those are the boundaries.
For example, suppose you don’t let them access some site or app. In
that case, it’s easier to explain why you do it in the long run because you
want to gain trust and not just impose authority over them.
At this age group, it’s also a great time to introduce your kids to
education apps and content and to set a personal example that you do
what you preach and not the opposite (don’t be a hypocrite).
Let them make their own decisions while monitoring them online to some
extent and guiding them when you think they made a mistake at the
appropriate time and way.
Also, it’s important to remember that kids begin to show sexual interest
at those ages. This is the best time to focus on exercising active parental
control because they will soon be 16+ and will probably outsmart you.
Around this time, teenagers do stupid things because they feel they
know it all, but they don’t.
In most cases, they are more influenced by their peers and trends than
by their parents at this stage (remember yourself at this age), but if you
did your parenting right, they would still listen and consult with you.
Soon you’ll lose most of the parental control you had, but you can still
stay up-to-date. Some parents even monitor their children after they are
18+ to make sure, for example, they don’t Overspeed when they drive.
And because at this age, most teenagers become sexually curious and
desire a partner, it may be the right time to talk about sexuality, what not
to do online, and just keeping it real overall as a family.
Because very soon, maybe even sooner than you wish, they will be 17
and 18, and 21+ (remember how the first 3 years passed by fast).
Hopefully, by this time…
Hopefully, by this time, if you started early on, you already trust them to
protect themselves online because they have the understanding, tools,
and the right mindset to do so wisely.