“We work to get kids to understand they have to be responsible for themselves, think before they do something that could put them in danger,” says Friedman. “Giving their name, address, where they go to school, soccer jersey number could help someone find them.”
Angela Dencler, school counselor at Red Pump Elementary School in Bel Air, says parents should use controls established by different computer companies and websites. Friedman’s children, 10 and 8, are “so locked up.” Applications are restricted as is their access to various sites, she says. They also must observe family rules dictating usage and time restrictions. It is also beneficial to keep the computer in a public area like the family room where their usage — and their friends— can be monitored, and not allow them to use a laptop or iPod with Internet access while they are alone in their bedrooms.
“You can’t be afraid of the technology,” Dencler says. “You just have to find out what you can do to keep
your children safe.”
Bel Air mom Jodi Richman keeps the computer in the kitchen to monitor Tyler, 14, Bailee, 12, and Kyle, 9. She’s Tyler’s Facebook friend and has no qualms about asking him or Bailee to hand over either’s iPod or phone —even in the middle of a game—to view texts and messages. Kyle and Bailee, neither 13, do not have Facebook accounts. Bailee has a phone because she is on a year-round swim team and needs to communicate with her parents.
“It’s important to keep them young as long as you can,” says Richman, who recently quit her job to be home and monitor them more. “Weneed to keep them innocent by monitoring what they have access to. Everyone’s in too much of a rush to grow up.”
Social Media Tips
1. Passwords. Your kids’ passwords are not supposed to keep you out. Always know their passwords to their Facebook, iPhone, etc. They should have a password for security reasons, but you need to know it. Some kids have two Facebook accounts, so make sure you know about both.
2. Monitoring. Never allow your kids to be on the computer, Xbox, etc. alone. It should be in a central location in the house so that you can monitor what they’re doing.
3. Parental Controls. All computers should have parental controls to limit the sites and how much time your kids spend on the computer. This includes their smartphones, iPods and gaming consoles as well. Talk to your mobile provider about what they offer in parental controls. (Side note, as a safety precaution, always have their GPS enabled so that you know where they are in an emergency.)
4. Online Bullying. Some kids who would never bully other kids in person have no trouble doing it online. If they can’t see the victim and how they react in person, it lessens the severity of the bullying to them. Watch what your kids are posting and make sure they haven’t made any bullying statements. Computers take the person out of the equation and make it easier for bullying.
5. Establish Rules. When deciding whether it’s time to let your child online, sit down together and discuss the expectations. Online contracts are available for both parents and children to sign. When the rules are broken, be firm and take away computer privileges. If necessary, when you’re not around, take the power cord with you so they won’t sneak on!
Netsmartz.org/parents — according to their website is “a program of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”
Wiredsafety.org — according to their website is “a U.S. based online safety, education, and help group.”
Internetsafety101.org — according to their website is “non-partisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to online safety.”
Safe.org — according to their website is “a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating and empowering youth (and others) to safely, responsibly and productively use Information and Communications Technologies.”
keepsafe.org — Internet Keep
Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe) — according to their website is “a nonprofit international alliance of more than 100 policy leaders, educators, law enforcement members, technology experts, public health experts and advocates.”
cybertipline.com — reporting mechanism for child sexual exploitation by the National Center
for Missing and Exploited Children