Back to School Prep for Parents: Start With The 3 C’s

Since summer vacation is coming to an end, I am bracing myself for all the new things my two girls will be doing, plus the new activities and connections us parents add to our crazy lives these days.  As we pick out first day dresses and get our pencils sharpened, this is the perfect time for us to all plan to give our kids “The Talk,” you know, the one about the 3 C’s (cyber safety, security and ethics). 

Recently, I was so fortunate to attend McAfee’s pre-show event and Smurfs 2 premiere. Now, my job as Chief Privacy Officer certainly involves meeting very interesting people, but I have to say, attending a Smurfs premiere was an absolute first for me.  So here’s the really cool thing about the movie and how it fits in with the 3 C’sNo spoilers from me, but I will tease you a bit by saying to look out for themes around identity, being different, belonging, keeping information private (or secret) and holding on to one’s own identity rather than stealing someone else’s essence.

Start the Discussions Today
This picture is just one of many examples of how we can take something that is already a part of your child’s lives to discuss tougher topics. By using their imagination you can create the kind of world that incorporates cyber safety, security AND ethics in their daily routine—particularly as they begin to get more mature and independent.  It makes me sad to think that soon I won’t have the chance to dig into a shared bowl of ice cream with my girls to chat about what fictional blue characters could have done differently and what the adults were thinking and feeling.

Be an ‘Observer’ and a ‘Leader’
Parents need to keep a close eye on the cool, new social sites that kids are logging onto everyday. While most of these site’s policies state they are not designed to attract children 13 and younger, its usually for the companies protection under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)—NOT YOURS. Nothing magical happens to the site at age 13; it’s up to you, the parent to decide when your child is ready to get the virtual keys. Research shows that more tweens (10-12 year olds) are now on several social sites.  Mom and Dad are signing them up in many cases but NOT teaching them how to surf safe.

The content and behavior on these sites will teach your child if you won’t. Even a “good” kid can be hurt by what they experience online. Kids who were surveyed in a new McAfee teen study revealed they are witnessing bullying online in greater numbers and parents are not fully aware of the issues. It’s not just about Facebook too. Young people are constantly experimenting on social media sites that parents might not even know exist.  Snapchat, Instagram, Vine and other new socials are allowing quick means to overshare thoughts, videos and pictures. It may be a ‘virtual’ world, but the feelings in relationships are REAL feelings and the hurts are REAL emotions & that fact should empower parents and kids to stick together during a storm of chance for good and otherwise.

Cheating and Cyberbullying Today
Additionally, children are continuing to find ways to use technology to cheat, while only half of the parents of cheating kids believed they had done so.  If you don’t explain how to correctly copy and cite from sources for their homework, they *may* under pressure buy papers or use small devices to look up test answers or other easy way outs online. Kids need parents to back up the teachers and talk about why this type of behavior can damage their grades in later years and certainly their reputation or school record if they get caught.

Youth are not the only ones that need education on safe online behaviors. It’s important for parents to stay on top of ‘what their kids are doing’ at each stage of their lives because new research has shown that many parents just aren’t. I’m not the most tech-savvy, but I try to learn from other parents, teachers, my kids and check out the sites that I hear about. Kids *need* your guidance even if you don’t know the first thing about tech trends or social sites, or any of the stuff that sounds new but boils down to having a real and ‘virtual’ social life. The really cool thing is that getting into virtual school is not hard, overwhelming or even that time consuming and there is a lot of help out there when you are ready.

We are all in this together and can all not only keep our kids safe this new school year by building a community based on Cyber safety, security and ethics. I promise you that your kids will surprise you with what they know, the untruths they may believe and the very creative ways they learn to keep their own special secrets private. Think about “thanking” Sony for the good content by taking your kids to a matinee then having a chat about it at their favorite spot. After you’ve had “The Talk” about the 3 C’s think about seeing it again & look for how they show up in the plot.  It’s a feel good, teachable moment—with cute cartoons. We can have a little fun and Parent Up.

What Can You Start Doing Today

  • Now is a great time to have a conversation with your child about online safety before they go back to school and as they interact with more people, places, information and devices—be creative and initiate small conversations whenever it crops up.
  • If you give your children mobile devices at very young age, then be sure to discuss cheating and the real life consequences that exist.
  • Monitor your child’s social media activity and time spent on social media sites to ensure that you’re aware of any cyber bullying that may take place—you can use technology controls, befriend them or require that they share a password or get a trusted adult that’s not you to be their friend and stay involved.
  • Be a leader and show your child how you set your password, walk an older child thru the quagmire of privacy settings on social sites—if they see how *you* do it then they may be more likely to ask for help when they need it or just stop and think before making a very bad decision.
  • Let your child teach *you* how they figure out where to find the cool videos on YouTube or set their preferences on web platforms or email sites.  They may even try to impress you on how they get around the software controls you may already have and think are working.  (That trick works more than you think and the pride they get from knowing stuff you don’t can be empowering.)
  • Have conversation about behavior and conduct when your child is not engaged online and when you are POS (parent over shoulder).  I find my minivan and going for walks are some of my most powerful parenting tools.  Something about you facing away or just being together with nothing else going on can get the truth out about who their friends are, what they like to do, what their dreams are and what makes them happy to be them.
  • Get your child comfortable with speaking about bullying, how to prevent it and what to do when they observe it; it doesn’t stop as kids age and the bully, victim AND witness are all damaged by this uncool and harmful behavior.   
  • Set ethical standards. There are a LOT of changes happening in the world from revolutions on TV to former amateur porn stars as “celebrities”—kids can see it all AND participate in some pretty sophisticated stuff all the time and on the smallest devices.
  • Have a plan to talk to your kids on a frequent basis about cyber security, cyber safety and cyber ethics.  Their needs will change as they grow and technology will also challenge our society to be up to date and prepared for anything. Google Glass anyone?
  • Work out an agreement for how your kid will tell you when he’s in trouble, afraid, just uncomfortable or thinks someone else may need help about anything real or virtual; Agree about the mobile devices and how and when it’s cool to have them on and how they may be used; Decide and agree how much electronic protection the kids need and, for things that make your child feel less independent, decide what type of behavior you need to see to remove the restrictions or add filters etc.; Agree when to revisit the agreement.


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