Internet Safety. How do we keep our kids (and ourselves!) safe on the Internet?
I get asked this A LOT! This comes up constantly from friends, families and co-workers.
Basically, what I say to people about Internet “safety” is this:
No, the Internet is not safe (even with the kinds of things that your friends may tell you about various blocking tools and tracking – kids can figure out “workarounds”, believe me! It is VERY SCARY….and I know a lot about IT and use some of the tools that our kids and students are using.)
However, saying that, it is a wonderful tool when used properly and when used with recognition that there is a danger. The world is a scary place, it always has been!
Think of it like this:
Your child is walking down a street in New York city to see a once in a lifetime show at 1 a.m. It’s exactly the same. The internet opens your child (or YOU) up to the big wide world at all hours of the day!
Is it safe? Nope! Is it a tremendous opportunity? Yep! Do you want your child (or you!) to live in a bubble? No! Do you want them to “see” the world? Of course! Do you want them to learn? Definitely! To have new experiences? Absolutely!
You teach them to minimize the risk to take advantage of a great opportunity:
- You teach them to travel in a group (or Internet version: only be friends online with friends you know, not strangers! You wouldn’t let them talk to strangers on the street in New York! You would want to know who they’re talking to whether it’s online or on the street!) IMPORTANT: Realize that once it’s online – REGARDLESS of what kind of security settings you use – it’s out there.Anyone can get it if they really want to. Understand that. So, be smart about what you “say” or do on the internet with your friends! Teach that to your kids and remember that yourself!
- You teach them to pay attention to their surroundings on the street – bad guys on that side of the street, maybe we should go the other direction! At a party where you don’t know anyone? Maybe I should call home? (or Internet version: if it seems a little scary, stay away from it! Keep your eyes open! Pay attention!)
- You teach them that if something makes them uncomfortable then don’t do it! Tell someone about it – whether it’s online or at school or someone’s house, whatever. They have to know that THEY – no one else – are in control of their body, their life. No one has any power over them. Drill that one into their heads! That’s a really big one in my opinion. They have to know that they are in charge – have that self-confidence so that no one can take advantage of them. Online or on the streets of New York!
- You let them know that it’s OK to make a mistake, that they have somewhere to turn when (not IF) they make a mistake. They are going to screw up, whether it’s online or on the street. It’s going to happen. What’s important is that they learn to recognize it and say something about it and LEARN from it.
You have to make them (and yourself) “street-wise” – if someone really wants to take advantage of your children (or YOU) then they are going to do it regardless of the bars you put on your windows or the locks on your doors or the papers you shred or the software you install. No one is completely protected from bad stuff happening to them. It’s IMPOSSIBLE!
It’s a fact of life. If bad guys really want to get to you – they can, no matter what you do. The key is to make it harder for someone to do it to you or your children so that maybe they’ll move on to an easier target. Pay attention and always be aware. Don’t be afraid to try new things – you will miss out on great opportunities or even miss out on life. We can’t hide or live in a bubble! That’s not what life is about. It’s about taking chances, but being smart about it and praying that God will watch out for the rest. He won’t give you anything that you can’t handle, that I truly believe, but He helps those who help themselves.
It’s good to watch and read things about Internet safety (and lack thereof!) and talk to your children and students about the risks – they need to be aware of them (as do we) so that they know that there are bad things out there and they need to be smart. Regardless if it’s on the internet or on the street.
Hopefully, I’ve made sense here. I just worry about people thinking that they are “safe” from bad things happening if they put the bars on their windows and the software on their computers or even ban Facebook and “stuff”. These things do NOT mean that you can let your guard down! You still need to remain VIGILANT regardless of how much “protection” you put in place. Our precious little people are NEVER going to be totally “safe” – just “safer”.
And I certainly don’t think that we shouldn’t let our kids have DS’s or be on the Internet or travel to New York – that’s not the solution either and in fact will make them be sneaky so that you don’t know. You certainly don’t want them to be sneaky or be afraid to tell you about stuff. You want to be open and honest so that you know what’s going on in their lives.
Again, I KNOW for a FACT that I have made (still make!) plenty of mistakes as a parent. All I can do is do my best and offer what I can. We are all learning every day!
There’s my Internet safety advice for the day. This is my opinion only!