We all know the horror stories of poorly managed or unsupervised internet use. Cyberbullying has taken lives and Facebook rants have ended careers. The problem for parents is knowing how to protect their children while still offering them all of the benefits that the digital age has to offer. Here are a few things to keep in mind when supervising your child's digital life:
Privacy Is A Myth
Social media posts last forever. If a post is innocuous, it will be seen by about 2 percent of followers, but if it isn't, it can go viral and be seen by thousands. Since most information is digitized, digging into a person’s life is relatively easy. If you want an eye-opening example, create a free Ancestry.com account. You will be amazed at the amount and depth of information these digital databases can offer. Understanding that privacy is hard to come by online, a simple rule of thumb for parents is to always have access to their child's digital information. One of the caveats of having a smartphone should be that the parents always get to know the passwords.
Talk About The Threats
What is perhaps more effective than a bunch of rules governing usage is to talk about proper internet practices; but don't just list the threats, especially because your child most likely already knows them. Discuss how to handle threats and when your child should get you involved. You should also broach the Echo Chamber Effect, a phenomenon that arises once you filter out those that disagree with you and listen only to those that share your views. By being validated only by those that agree, people began to develop more extremist views. This is something can lead to reckless and socially disengaging behaviors in a child.
Tech Vs. Tech
The good news is that there is technology to help you stay on top of your child’s digital use. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge has built-in parental controls so that you can have different accounts for different ages. It is also water resistant to prevent damage from the active lifestyle of a child. Microsoft has a family feature that lets you create an account for each family member and you will get a daily report emailed to you about their activity. If you use Norton as your antivirus software, it also comes with a parental control function. It's important to educate yourself on your options. PC Magazine has a good list of parental control apps and software for you to explore.
Digital supervision of your child should be dynamic. That is, the rules that you enforced when your child was 6 should not be the same when they are 14. Researchers and legislators are finding that rules are being set that are not taking into account the young person’s perspective. The best way to supervise your child without it becoming an issue of dominance is to get buy-in from your child. Develop a plan that works for both of you and update it periodically. Make digital use into a running conversation so that you can enjoy the benefits of this technology as a family.