The “www” in the World Wide Web could just as easily stand for “wild, wild west!” It’s a whole different game online and predators run amok with no oversight and often no consequences. Here are some tips to teach your child to help him be savvier when he’s online:
- Don’t trust anyone—and I mean N-E-1 with his username and password, not even his best friends or siblings. The only person he can share his passwords with is you, the parent (of course your partner as well, if you have one). This must be mandatory. Tell him that his best friend today could be his worst enemy tomorrow, and that so-called friend could access his social accounts and wreak havoc.
- Ask him what he thinks “sexy” means. Talk about what kinds of phots and videos are considered inappropriate.
- Be absolutely 100 percent clear that sending a sexy photo to someone online could end up all over the web, on his friends’ social media, or make him vulnerable to sextortion.
- Make sure your son knows the legal consequences of sexting—even when the photo isn’t nude (it just has to be suggestive) and even if he didn’t take the photo himself. Be brutally honest with him about the fact that he can be arrested, charged, convicted, and imprisoned on a federal felony if he sends so much as one dick pic to his girlfriend. (I’m being a bit dramatic here, but the feds have successfully prosecuted kids as young as 10! They’re not messing around and neither should your child.)
- Tell him that sexting will be interpreted by predators to mean he’s willing to have sex with an adult.
- Talk about how predators lie in their profiles and communications, and talk about what grooming behavior looks like. Warn him that perps may try to manipulate him by giving him compliments and gifts—a well-known and often-effective tactic to get your child to feel like he should give the predator something he wants in return.
- Teach your child to trust his intuition; if something doesn’t feel right, it’s not, and he needs to stop all communications with that person.
- Your child must always notify you immediately if a stranger wants to meet him.
- Warn him to neverneverNEVER meet with anyone he meets online without you, the parent, being present. This is SO important!
- Don’t “friend” anyone online who he doesn’t know in real life.
- Together, choose the social sites he’ll join. Look up (together) on Google the pros and cons of each site you consider and select the ones you both agree on. Remember, you’re the parent here and you get to have the final word!
- Help him select an appropriate profile photo and write a good profile that isn’t provocative to predators.
- Teach him how to choose strong passwords. You can create acronyms that have special meaning to him, like the names of his favorite movies or songs.
- Cover or turn off his webcam when he’s not using it. People can hack into the webcam and watch your child get undressed, pop his pimples, sleep, etc.
- Set limits on what your child is allowed to do online, what sites he can visit, what kind of content he can post, who he can “friend” and chat with, and what chat rooms he can go to.
- Install parental monitoring software and tell your child it’s there to put him on notice that his online activity is being monitored.
- Learn which apps and social sites are bad news by visiting www.FamilyEducation.com.
- Remind your child that the photos he posts have location information embedded in the files. This can lead perps to other info that can identify where the child goes to school, who his friends are, etc.
- Teach your child to check in with the “internal cop” in his head before disobeying one of your rules, accessing a chat room or site that you wouldn’t approve of, or entering into or continuing a conversation that involves sexual content.
- Ask that internal cop: “Would my parents or grandparents be upset or disappointed if I do this?”
- Make it crystal clear why he should never meet someone in person he only knows online if you’re not also present. In addition to thinking they know every damn thing under the sun, kids tend to think they’re invulnerable and don’t believe they could ever be duped or abducted into a sex trafficking ring, for example.
- As he grows, talk with your child to help him understand that his online reputation is one of his most important assets; one that needs to be closely guarded. Photos of him partying or that contain sexual content will live on the web forever and could ruin his future prospects.
- Tell him not to retaliate if he’s provoked by someone online or he may also be guilty of criminal behavior himself.
- Show him how to block, flag, and report abusive content. This is the most effective way to stop bullying behavior. If you don’t know how to do these things, Google the answer and teach your child what to do so he can handle bullying incidents quickly and neatly.
- Reinforce how much you respect him and how much he should respect himself. Teach him that how he behaves online is a reflection of how he expects to be treated by others.
Your child’s computer, tablet, and phone time should be limited to a set amount per day, at your discretion, and be completely off limits overnight. At bedtime, make him turn them over to you to keep in your room ever single night. Yes, he’ll whine and complain, he might even cry and pitch a fit, but stick to your guns, mom and dad! Whether he believes it or not, you’re doing him a favor. The earlier you implement this rule, the more quickly he’ll get used to the idea as just a fact of life.
Be the parent your child deserves!
the Badass Grandma
About Badass Parenting
In Badass Parenting: Prepare Your Kids to Deal with Danger without Scaring the Hell out of Them, danger expert CJ Scarlet helps parents teach their children how to avoid and handle themselves in scary situations ranging from bullying and digital dangers to sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and kidnapping.
After reading this book, you’ll feel more knowledgeable and confident in your ability to talk candidly with your child at her age and maturity level without scaring her to death. It’s time to ditch the worry and get some sleep!
Edgy, funny, and irreverent, this unputdownable book (with TONS of downloadable bonus content!) is the new bible for parents looking to raise safe, savvy, confident kids.
“Badass Parenting is like a triple-dark chocolate cheesecake, with a layer of mousse in the middle (hint: the mousse is CJ Scarlet’s humor and style – which helps lighten up the cheesecake!). You will love this book!”
Karen Christie, Mom & Grandma