Growing up, most of us were subjected to undeniable embarrassment by parents who wanted to have “the talk” with us. They’d sit us down somewhere where we couldn’t escape, away from the protection of our friends or siblings, and tell us how awful and awkward the next few years were going to be. It felt terrible at the time, but it was necessary. In today’s technological landscape, it’s become apparent that we need to also be having a different kind of talk. We at Boomerang like to call it “The Talk 2.0”, and it’s all about keeping kids safe and happy online.
If you read my previous post, then you know that there are predators out there and that they don’t discriminate. I mentioned that it’s necessary to talk to your kids about online behaviour, and I want to dive a little deeper into that here.
When I was growing up, we had family meetings. They occurred once every two weeks before or after dinner, and it was a chance for all five of us to address any concerns, disagreements, achievements, or other things that had come up in the previous two weeks. Like “the talk”, I always hated them at the time, because it was often mom and dad assigning us more chores, or correcting our behaviour in some form or another. In hindsight though, they were essential to our household running smoothly, and because we had a bi-monthly chance to whine and complain about things that bugged us, our grievances never festered or became grudges. This was a long-winded way to say that you can never have too much communication, and that talking things over as a family (no matter how big or small the things or the family) is absolutely critical to having a happy, healthy, and respectful home environment.
“If you want your kids to talk to you, you have to open a regular channel of communication”
This brings us to “The Talk 2.0” which could be had individually with each child (if you have more than one), or in a group setting, or both. “The Talk 2.0” is all about technology. You should (in a non-confrontational and respectful way):
- Ask them if there are any apps their friends are using that they’d like to install on their phones and why (we have some blog posts about some of the apps your child’s friends may be using). Asking them what their friends are doing will make them less defensive.
- Explain to them that you don’t want to be nosy for the sake of it, you’re only concerned about their safety (safety first, then friendship).
- Ask them if they’ve seen any incidences of online bullying, or if they’ve ever been bullied online (or know someone who has).
- Make sure they know that sending or receiving ‘nudes’ if they’re under the age of 18 is considered to be distribution of child pornography and is punishable by law. (This is more relevant for teens and pre-teens)
- Reiterate that anything that goes on the internet, can stay on the internet forever, so if they don’t want something repeated/shared/distributed widely, then it’s best not to post it/say it in the first place.
- Make sure you (and your partner, if applicable) are well educated and up-to-date on the kind of apps/programs/social media your kids are using (does your local school parent committee have any events or informational sessions on these subjects? Try to attend them).
- Let your kids know that their personal information (addresses – including email, home, and school – phone numbers, full name, photos etc.) are incredibly valuable, and not to share them online. Encourage them to use a name other than their last name on Facebook (I go by Kelsey Bee – Bee is not my last name).
- Consider installing a parental control app to keep on top of any flags such as excessive screen time on specific apps or text messages they may have received or sent that contain bad words or are from unknown numbers (Hint: we can help with that!).
Now, whether you install Boomerang or a similar app on your family’s devices, is, at the end of the day, up to you; all we really want is for your family to be safe from predators, identity theft, and other dangers of the internet. We want to encourage learning, communication, and respect, and we hope you’ll come on board.