Okay, so your children are tech-savvy. Highly tech-savvy in fact. Maybe they can swipe screens quicker than you can, and navigate their way around the internet with their eyes closed. There’s a good chance they can figure out how to use new apps well before you’ve even heard of those apps! Welcome to the digital world.
It can be a little bit scary to attempt the somewhat daunting task of teaching our children how to be safe online when they already seem to be a step ahead of us. Changes online happen so quickly, with new apps and sites popping up all the time. And in the site our children use most of all, YouTube, there are more than 300 hours of video content being uploaded every single minute of every day! No wonder we’re overwhelmed by it all.
A Common Misconception
A common misconception we often have as parents is that because our children are so tech savvy from such a young age, they know how to keep themselves out of trouble online. If they’re smart enough to find out whatever they want to know online almost instantly, they must be smart enough to know that they should use the highest possible privacy settings, and how to set that up, right?
Similarly, they must know by now not to share personal information about themselves online, and not to talk to strangers online, mustn’t they? What about creating safe user names and passwords, and not sharing these with their friends?
Here is some evidence that perhaps being tech savvy online is not quite the same thing as being safe there:
- 55% of teens have given out personal information to someone they don’t know, including photos and physical descriptions
- 58% of teens don’t think posting photos or other personal information on social networking sites is unsafe
- 58% of teens post information about where they live
- 8% of teens have posted their phone number online
- 47% of teens are not worried about others using their personal information in ways they do not want or intend it to be used
- 92% of teens post their real name on their social media profiles
- 16% of teens say they’ve considered meeting face-to-face with someone they’ve met online, and 8% have done so
- 31% of teens say they usually reply and chat online with people they don’t know
And if teens are not savvy enough to protect themselves online, how do you think your younger children will handle it?
What You Have That Your Children Need
Now that you know your children may be more tech-savvy than safety-savvy online, it’s time for you to use what you have that they don’t have (and desperately need!) to help them. Rather than trying to compete with your child and keep up with them in a tech-savvy way, recognise that you have age and experience on your side. As someone who has been on this planet a lot longer than your children have, you can share your wisdom and life skills in practical ways that can prevent a world of pain.
The fact is that it isn’t easy to keep your children safe online. They are almost constantly surrounded with the internet and their mobile devices. And while there are undoubtedly some benefits in being connected online, there are undeniable risks that come with that combination of tools. Given that they don’t have enough emotional intelligence yet to be responsible digital citizens on their own (their brains are still developing after all), your children badly need your parental guidance when they’re online, whether they realise it or not.
Rather than just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, this should help you feel empowered to play a vital role in your children’s well-being online. Don’t let their tech-savviness overwhelm you. The social interactions you’ve had in your lifetime can prove invaluable if communicated effectively with your children.
How You Can Keep Your Tech-Savvy Children Safe Online
The key to keeping your children safe online is in the way you communicate with them and educate them. If the lines of communication between you and your child are solid, and this has to start as early as possible, then as your child prepares for their teens and beyond they’ll be less likely to engage in dangerous or inappropriate behaviours online. Sure, you can’t always prevent anything bad from happening at all, but you can minimise the likelihood of something going very wrong, and you can also help to minimise the impact if something does happen.
Opening up those lines of communication is a challenge in itself. Most parents think their children are being open with them, yet 70% of teens hide their online behaviour from their parents! This means that if you don’t do something about it, there’s less than a 1 in 3 chance that your child won’t hide what they’re doing from you – these are not good odds!
The good news is that there’s an easier way to get on top of all this, and to encourage your child to be one of the 30% who does tell you what’s going on more often than not. For more practical help to keep your tech-savvy children safe online click here.