Each parent is different, as is each parent’s relationship with his or her child. We trust parents to know what is best for their kids, but understand that since parents almost never have a complete understanding of what kids are doing online, the “what to worry about” question can be a moving target, often driven by alarming news reports or personal experiences.
Specifically, our talk was titled, “I Have No Idea What My Kids Are Doing Online”, and a show of hands revealed that the audience was 100% middle school parents. While we covered a wide range of topics, what were they interested in, as indicated both by the questions asked and their level of engagement in various topics presented, are as follows, in order:
Who can find my child? – Specifically, parents are interested in guidance around their children putting personally identifying information (PII) online, especially when it leads to children exposing themselves to predator risk. Having guidelines, agreed upon by your children, about how much they share online is critical.
Who knows where my child is right now? – You may know that a child’s phone, some digital cameras and many apps and websites collect and share Geolocation Data, or the exact location of your child when taking a picture or posting to a social media site. Parents are rightfully concerned about this.
YouTube – A very unscientific poll of middle school parents will tell you that YouTube use among middle school students runs at close to 100%. Our kids are no different. Not surprisingly, parents are concerned about guidelines for safe pre teen YouTube use.
Age limits and peer pressure – “My daughter is 10, and all of her friends use Instagram, and THEIR parents are OK with it.” Sound familiar? Your child is your responsibility, and what other parents are doing should not have much bearing on what your guidelines are.
Parents in this forum were not very interested in cyberbullying, protecting personal information from advertisers or age-appropriate apps and websites. Maybe they were already up to speed, or hadn’t encountered problems yet.
If you aren’t sure as a parent what you should be worried about, you can start by talking to your children about what they are currently doing online. It’s a start.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.