Google+ Authentic Parenting: Modeling Good Online Behavior for Kids

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Modeling Good Online Behavior for Kids

Written by Patricia Shuler

Kids are experiencing a new world online; help them navigate it safely

Most parents find themselves making up the rules for online behavior as they go. Our parents didn't have to deal with this, so we don't have much of a precedent to work with.
Whichever strategy you use to help your kids develop a healthy attitude toward technology, it's always best to lead by example.

Here are a few ways to demonstrate productive, safe, and healthy online behavior for your kids.

1. Start by browsing together

There are plenty of online rules of the road that adults take for granted, but that young children have no way of knowing. Like so many things, being online safely requires a certain degree of guidance and maturity so spend plenty of time online together, talking about what's out there, including phishing, malware, and pornography. If your kids aren't mature enough to understand these subjects, they're probably not mature enough to be unsupervised online.

2. Discuss the consequences of unsafe behavior thoroughly

You've been online long enough to know a spammy popup when you see one; but kids don't have any instinctive reason to doubt claims they read online. To keep your finances and identity safe, coach your kids extensively about the damage caused by malware, identity theft, and bad influences online. Set firm rules about how your kids should respond to interactions with strangers online, the types of links they can safely click, and which sites are okay to visit. Trust your kids, but install content filters and protect your browser history so that you can detect and handle mistakes when they happen.

3. Set limits

Image: Uros Velickovic on Flickr
One of the biggest problems that children and grown-ups face with technology is knowing when to unplug. Decide for yourself what is a healthy time for your family to spend connected; and if you work online, look for ways to control your time spent on recreational sites. If you use Chrome, StayFocusd is a good service to keep you on the right track; Leechblock is a comparable service for Firefox. Both are customizable, so you can make your own rules and stick with them. One of the easiest ways to guide your kids' online behavior is to be present for it. In my house, we don't allow laptop computers in bedrooms, the computer stays in the family room. It can be helpful for everyone in the house to have the same rules, but if that isn't feasible, at least make sure that everyone has rules and sticks with them. If your kids know when you're out of time, and they see you willingly unplug, it can be a great lesson for them (and a good way for you to stay accountable).

4. Let your kids see you have fun online, safely

Kids who get bored can range into dangerous territory online, so help them find good places to have fun online. If you stream movies or play games online, it's a good opportunity to talk about which sites are safe, and the dangers that can come from clicking banner ads or unknown items on a Google search.

Talk to your kids about how they want to spend time online so you can decide, first, if you're okay with that activity; and second, what is the safest way to do it. Make sure kids understand the dangers of sharing personal information with strangers online, as well as how to handle the anonymity of the internet with civility and maturity.

5. Model healthy use of social networks

When you and your kids are ready for social networks, talk frankly about treating friends and classmates with respect and add them to your networks so that they can see your civil, decent interactions, and so that you can handle unkind or inappropriate behavior just as you would in person.

About the author
Patricia Shuler is a BBGeeks.com staff writer from Oakland, California. Sheís an admitted tech-junkie whoís quick to share her honest opinion on all things consumer electronicóincluding up-to-date news, user reviews, and ìno holds barredî opinions on a variety of social media, tech, computer, and mobile accessories topics.


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