A recent news story is as an acute reminder to parents to monitor all of their kids’ online networks—even secondary social networks, like Xbox LIVE.
According to reports, four Iowa teens—two males and two females—ran away from their homes in what police say may have been a plotted escape made during conversations during Xbox LIVE gaming sessions.
The quote in the story that stands out to us on the safety side of this conversation came from a mother of one of the teens: “I don’t let him [her son] have a Facebook account because I don’t want him meeting people online . . . I didn’t realize they could do so much on Xbox.”
It’s a hard lesson learned for many parents: That the word “social network” reaches beyond Facebook. On Xbox LIVE in particular, a user can select people with whom they want to become friends. Once friends, they can have a camera chat, voice chat, invite each other to games and send private messages to each other.
Other secondary social networks your kids may frequent include: Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, MeetMe, and MySpace.
So how can you keep up with your kids’ social networks? Here are 6 ways:
- Get involved and stay informed. As parents responsible for raising kids in the digital age, understanding technology is simply part of the job. This means being informed about the Internet as well as parental controls available. Yes, this will take additional time, but the payoff on the safety side is too great to ignore.
- Communicate. Why snoop when you can communicate? Talk to your kids often and openly about ground rules for online time. Go over safety expectations regarding privacy, online relationships, inappropriate content, uploading photos, etc. Review this helpful Game Plan with your family often. With the ground rules, set clear consequences if rules are broken.
- Affirm wins. Catch your kids doing things right online and praise them. By doing this, the conversation becomes 2-way sharing instead of a lecture.
- Know your kids’ passwords. While some people view this as a violation of a child’s privacy and a sure way to break trust, werecommend keeping and checking passwords for safety reasons.
- Install Parental control software. The right software will track, monitor, and report back to you what sites your kids visit. This will allow you to know where to start your conversations and guide your kids.
- Listen in. Keep your eyes and ears open when your kids are online. Keep the door open while your kids are playing online games with other players; let them know you are listening.
“If the internet feels like the Wild Wild West to you as a parent, you are not alone,” says Shane Kenny, director of sales and marketing at McAfee. “However, with a serious commitment to being informed and communicating around this topic, parents can make a real impact in their kids’ experiences online.”