We hear the warning all the time when it comes to social media, technology and our children, but it can be hard to stay out in front of all the dangers. Stephen Balkam is an expert in the field and founder of the Family Online Safety Institute. He visited the FOX59 Red Couch to answer questions about the seven steps to good online parenting.
Seven steps to good online parenting:
- Talk with your kids.
It sounds simple, but the number one indicator of good digital parenting is keeping an open line of communication going with your kids. Talk early and often. Stay calm. Be open and direct. But keep talking.
- Educate yourself.
This is probably the first technology in human history where the kids are leading the adults. It is very humbling to have a 7-year-old explain how to upload a video. If in doubt, simply type in your question or concern in your favorite search engine and there will be more than enough information to go on.
- Use parental controls.
It goes without saying that there is content on the internet you don't want your kids stumbling upon. All of the major operating systems provide either free or inexpensive parental controls to help you manage your kids’ online experience.
- Set ground rules and apply sanctions.
Many parents don’t know where to start in creating rules of the road for their kids’ digital use. But there are many online safety contracts to choose from as well as simple house rules such as no devices at dinner and handing in their phones at night. Once you’ve set the rules, enforce them. Let your kids know that they will lose online privileges if they break the rules and be clear and consistent about what those sanctions will be.
- Friend and follow, but don't stalk.
When your teen opens her Facebook account at 13, ensure you’re her first friend. Follow your kids on Twitter and YouTube. Don't overdo it and leave daily comments, but don't under do it either. It's good to stay close as your teen makes his first forays into the world of social media. But don’t be tempted to spy on your kids, either. Talking instead of stalking is what builds trust. Give your teen some space to experiment, to take (healthy) risks and to build resiliency.
- Explore, share and celebrate.
With the rules and tools in place, don't forget to just go online with your kids. Play games, watch videos, share photos and generally hang out with your children online. Learn from them and have fun. Share your favorite sites and download their apps. See the world through their eyes. And let them know your values and beliefs as you guide them on their way.
- Be a good digital role model.
Stephen Balkam is founder of the Family Online Safety Institute. For more advice on how to keep your kids safe online, click here.