Yesterday I had the pleasure of heading in to DC to partake in the Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference.
It’s a conference put on each year by leaders in the online realm (we’re talking mobile carriers, Internet service providers, search engines, and antivirus developing type companies) to explore trends in current online usage for families and children, and discuss ways we, as adults, can ensure our children are safe online.
It was amazing!
Interesting, informative, and thought provoking in so many different ways.
Just to give you an idea of why this is important, let me share some statistics with you:
- A little over 42% of North Americans are using Facebook
- 90% of children ages 12-17 are now online
- One out of five teenagers use their phones to go online.
- Teens aged 13-17 send an average of 3,339 test messages per month
- 25% of kids aged 2-5 can open a web browser
- 80% of teens online are using social media sites
- 88% of teens have seen someone be mean or cruel to another on a social networking site
So, our kids are using this stuff and exploring this realm more than many adults can even begin to imagine.
For me, as a mom to younger children, I haven’t spent much time thinking about how my children are using the Internet; I know they do it, because I sit there and do it with them.
But, as I have a child turning 10 next week (I know, GAH!), I’m really starting to talk to him about what is appropriate online behavior, what my expectations are for him while interacting online, and what to do if he finds himself in a place or situation he is uncomfortable.
My expectations for his online behavior are truly no different than what I expect in his daily life: he needs to be honest with me about his choices, he needs to be responsible in his behavior, and he needs to come to me if he has any problems or concerns.
Even so, it is important to verbalize these things to children. It’s easy for them to get wrapped up in the anonymity of the Internet; often not realizing how impactful the things said and done online can (and more often than not, do) haunt you in your daily life as well.
And, unlike things you may say or do in the world that are easily forgettable, that is not the case online. You have more of a “paper trail” so to speak when you do things digitally, and parents need to ensure that their children understand this. Kids need to know that things they put on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other sites online could follow them for years to come.
And, as any adult knows, no one wants to be judged by the silly things they said when they were 16!
However, it’s also important to note all of the positive things that interacting online can bring to a child and family.
Naturally we don’t want it to take away from our daily, face-to-face interactions, but research has shown that it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, 65% of social-media using teens have reported having a positive experience online that made them feel good about themselves.
And, there are so many opportunities to enjoy engaging, exciting, entertaining, and educational activities online that families can safely take advantage of if they learn ways to take the proper precautions (two we love: Kidz Vuz and Yoursphere).
Need help navigating the online safety waters?!
Here are a few sites to help:
And, check back next week for some practical tips on how you can keep your kids safe online.