If you are a parent you are likely familiar with the 24/7 critic that silently (and relentlessly) loops in your head. You know the one: Its intensity varies depending on the day. It accuses you of not doing enough for your kids, of doing too much for them, and then it convinces your overwhelmed self that everything is “A-okay-hunky-dory” while dangers abound.
Relax. You are not alone in hearing voices—especially when it comes to the sometimes daunting task of staying on top of your child’s online life. While the Internet has given kids an irresistible feast of learning, peer sharing, and fun, it’s also led some parents (myself included) to entertain a false sense of security as they daily struggle to keep pace with change.
So what can you do? A great start is to identify the lie when you hear it and call it out!
Here are 5 common lies parents tell themselves and some truth to help combat them:
- I can trust my kids online.This is a popular lie and quite common among well-intentioned parents. While it may be true that you can trust your kids in general, the online world will pose temptations and threats to your family that even the savviest parent can’t begin to anticipate. Scammers, predators, and bullies are part of life—and amplify their covertness in the online arena. Truth: Trust your kids in general but don’t trust the Internet—ever. Take the same precautions you would take if you let your kids hang out in a big city. Educate them. Guide them. Keep your eye on them. Do not become complacent.
- My kids are protected online. You have done an excellent job of keeping your kids supervised and the Internet is no exception. You’ve flipped on the “safe search,” and downloaded the filtering tools that came with your PC. Truth: While many personal PCs come with some degree of filtering, and “safe searches” are offered via search engines and social networking sites, this will not cover all the bases. Just as you would choose the safest car for your new teen driver, invest in the best parental controls for your family devices. Great filtering software should have strong reporting and monitoring tools, social networking monitoring, and mobile protection.
- My kids tell me everything about their online life. When your kids were younger they may have told you everything but that was likely longer ago than you may care to admit. Social networks, texting, video chatting, and mobile apps have changed the contour of the child-parent communication in significant ways. Truth: Studies repeatedly show that kids increasingly hide their online behaviors from their parents. Talk candidly and openly about relevant digital issues. Keep up on technology, slang, and trends as they affect your kids. Find common ground and communicate often.
- My kids know ‘enough’ about online safety. This is a common and dangerous lie parents tell themselves. While you may have “gone over” the basics of online safety once with your kids, once will never be enough. Truth: Talking about online safely with kids and teens is pretty much like making them eat their vegetables. You can bet if you weren’t around they’d likely be eating Captain Crunch! Internet safety is a topic you need to visit often. Keep the conversation lighthearted but real when it comes to the potential dangers online. This game plan is a great place to begin.
- The web is too big. Online safety is out of my control. This is a disturbing albeit very real thought parents may have today. Many parents feel disconnected and out of touch with their digital children; so much so, they throw their hands up and hope for the best. Truth: Yes, your child’s online life is a lot to keep up with but you can do it and we are here to help! Your kids need you now more than ever. Be aware of your kid’s digital paths—where they go and with whom they converse. Pour into them the integrity and awareness it takes to become a strong—and savvy—digital citizen.