When I first started blogging, it was 2010 and my children were both too young to go online, read a blog, know that their mother was often writing about them.
These days, it is much different. My kids are both reading and are able to access the internet independently and also smart enough to break into Mommy’s iPad to play Subway Surfers and access Netflix. My daughter, now age 8, at the age that she is comfortable navigating online and this year we got her a laptop. Our reasons for that were two-fold, partially for homework and partially so that she stopped stealing mine all the time.
In today’s digital world and in our local community, a laptop in 2nd grade is actually a bit later than a lot of families we know. So many kids have their own iPhones, tablets, computers and televisions in their bedrooms. Even though I’m up on the latest technology and often blog about technology, I wanted to keep my kids in the Stone Age as long as possible. That is, until I saw that they needed to be up on the latest technology for school and to keep up with their peers.
Giving my kids this open access to the wide world of the interwebs has exposed them to a new level of learning and I am proud of how tech savvy they are. But the protective Mom in me is apprehensive at the same time. Why? Because I am older, lived longer, seen more of the “ugly” that is out there- the “ugly” I don’t want creeping up on my kids, encroaching into their little bubble of childlike wonder.
Every parent has their own philosophy on what is right when it comes to raising our kids, and I have always believed that parents are entitled to their own beliefs and parenting approaches and would never want to force my opinions on anyone else. Different families call for different rules, guidelines, mantras. I do draw the line at things that are completely inappropriate – the extreme public shaming of kids on social media by their parents, cyber bullying, and inappropriate pictures. But when it comes to when to allow your kids online or when to let them have their first cell phone – I think that is each family’s personal choice to make.
As a blogger, you’ve read a lot about family destinations, attractions, food, fashion and family travel on my blog. Intertwined between pieces on events and new toys I have shared intimate details about my life, about what makes me who I am. And I have shared glimpses into my childrens lives as well, along with photos of their adorableness. But I draw the line at where I am comfortable and consider what my kids might find harming to them when they are tweens, teens, adults. We all know, once something is online – it can never be fully erased.
How much do you share about your kids in terms the internet and social media? Is internet safety something you and your spouse discuss or is it something you have navigated as you went? There are so many difficult decisions and choices to make when it comes to our kids, and I think parenting in todays digital world is more complicated and requires more attention than it did when we were kids whose only access to their friends was when they called our house phone (located in the kitchen) or rode their bikes to our front step. My mom didn’t have to worry about who I was texting, IMing or Snapchatting because these methods of communication didn’t exist.
Here are some practical tips for how I ensure my kids are protected in terms of internet safety:
1. No private or locked computers. My daughter has a laptop but we don’t allow any private passwords and I often check her computer. I also have installed blocks so that she cannot access any websites that I would not want her on.
2. No cell phone until they are old enough to need one. My kids are 8 and 6 and do not need their own cells yet. I either attend their events or they are dropped off and picked up by us, and chaperoned while at the event. In case of emergencies, I have a prepaid cell phone for calls only (no internet) that they could use if need be.
3. Setting up accounts with “kid access.” For Netflix, my kids both have their own accounts to watch shows. They are both set to kids programming which does not allow them to watch adult or R-rated shows. This way, they have the power of the remote but no access to inappropriate movies and shows for their age group. Make sure if your kids are online, they are blocked from dangerous sites.
4. Keep the conversation open. I can’t stress this one enough. Do your kids go to friends houses and use their computers? Chat with the parents and make sure there are settings so that your kids aren’t in chat rooms or on sites that are for adult eyes. Try and make it easy to always talk to your kids so they feel comfortable talking to you. This will be even more important as they get older and peer pressures increase.
5. Restrict social media until you are comfortable with them accessing it. Facebook has an age minimum of 13, but I know a lot of parents with 10 or 11 year old children with accounts who used a different birth year to access the site. When my kids get older, I am sticking to the age requirement. In this moms opinion, it is there for a reason and I don’t want to set the example that lying (about your age, etc.) is ever OK with mom. If lying about your age to get on social networking is okay, is it also okay to lie about your age in chat rooms, to get into R-rated movies, and later to buy and consume alcohol? It is a precedent I do not want to start.
What are your thoughts on children’s digital safety? Do you allow your kids to go online unsupervised? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this important topic and how you handle internet safety in your home!
Disclosure: This post was inspired and sponsored by Domain.ME, the provider of the personal URLs that end in .ME. As a company, they aim to promote thought leadership to the tech world.