It’s no secret that your kids have more than one way to connect online. Once online, via computer, cell phone, tablet, iPod or gaming console, as long as there is a wifi connection or they’re using a phone they can also communicate with their friends. Unfortunately, cyberbullies or strangers, even those who may be predators, can also contact them.
My two boys, 14 and 15 years old, are big fans of online video games. I make it a point of spending some time with each of them to figure out who they’re communicating with online, with a frequent reminder that the other player in the chat box may not be who he claims or appears to be.
Last weekend, I sat down with my 14 year old while he was playing Minecraft, headphones on and the chat box open. This was the conversation as I remember it:
Me: “Who are you talking to?”
Me: “Who’s that?”
K2: “Some kid. I think he’s like a grade behind me.”
Me: “How do you know it’s not some 40 year old creeper.”
K2: “I just know.”
Me: “Where does he live”
K2: “You can’t ask that.”
Apparently, there’s an unwritten rule that you can’t ask online players their location or other identifying information. That is a terrific rule, unwritten or not.
Me: “What’s your screen name today?” (I know that he changes screen name from time to time to disguise his identity from the players who he’s familiar with.)
K2: “Stranger Danger.”
Me: “What? Do you know what stranger danger is?”
K2: In a gruff voice, “Hey kid, do you want some candy?”
We talked for a while longer and it was evident that he is very aware of stranger danger, and guards his own identity very closely when online. We also talked about cyberbullying, and he assured me that it hasn’t been an issue for him. Keep your kids safe, folks.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.