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The Internet of Things has expanded more than most people ever imagined it could. People are constantly connected to things, and things are indefinitely connected to other things. This concept has had a significant impact on the way our children are brought up. Younger generations have trouble even differentiating between ‘online’ and ‘offline’—they’re simply ‘online’ at all times. There is no such thing as ‘offline’ to younger generations.
Men, Women, and Children, a movie released earlier this year, centers on young adults and children growing up in an online world. The movie heavily focuses on how parents struggle to deal with it on a daily basis, never knowing where to draw the line or how to do it. And this probably rings true for many real-life parents. How do I teach my children online safety? What is acceptable for them to do? What should they not be doing? How do I guide them in the right direction without overstepping?
There are many different ways to lead your children down a secure path, and there are a few good organizations out there that present useful ‘how-to’ material such as ikeepsafe and NetSmartz. But here are a few tips to help you get started.
Start at the very beginning.
Parenting.com compares your child’s online world to a playground. You know who your child is playing with, and you know all about the park they’re playing at. So why wouldn’t you do the same with their ‘online playground’? They’re big advocates of copiloting—sitting with your child and being in the same online playground as they are. But don’t take this the wrong way.
This doesn’t mean sitting with your 15-year old or even your 10-year old. This means starting from the very beginning when your young child is barely learning how to navigate connected devices.
Teach them what is right and what is wrong.
You can’t assume your children know what is right and what is wrong online. How do you expect them to stay safe online if you’ve never told them how to be safe? As technology changes and as your children get older, you should have multiple conversations with them about what you believe to be acceptable and not acceptable. Give them clear, understandable guidelines. For example, do not share your physical address with anyone online. But don’t just leave at that. Explain why they cannot share their information and what the consequences may be.
Enable parental controls.
Parental controls are necessary. And depending on your children, you can make the decision as to how long they’re necessary and to what degree they’re needed. Most all devices—tablets, phones, computers, TVs—all have parental control settings or downloadable applications that are easy to navigate and even easier to implement. Here’s a great video from O2 Guru, a UK-based digital communications company, on how to find these settings and applications.
Explain the meaning behind online reputation.
Many times, online reputation is used within a business context; however, it can also be used to describe an individual’s collection of online material. There are companies that make a living off of protecting and preserving your online reputation, the inherent masters of Online Reputation Management. You need to explain to your children why these companies exist, and how people find their way to these companies. They need to understand that their online actions today can haunt them 10, 20, or even 30 years from now, ruining job prospects and personal relationships.