I’ve been on Facebook for years, tweeted over 58,000 times, Instagrammed a bit. I’ve even dabbled in G+ occasionally. So I consider myself to be fairly savvy when it comes to supervising my kids when they’re online. We follow all the usual rules like Safe Search, filters, blocking certain words and restricting access to Facebook by not letting them know the log-in passwords.
So this article on Time.com yesterday really made me sit up and pay attention, especially with all the coverage on the Steubenville rape case. How much do most parents really know of what their kids are doing now? We might be monitoring their computer use, but do we check their smartphones, Kindles, tablets, game consoles for what they’re doing? Do we know everyone they’re friends with online? Do we know if they’re using apps like Snapchat or Kik?
How terrifying is the thought of Snapchat? An app that allows you to send a text, video or photo that will self-destruct within ten seconds of being opened. It’s free on Android and I have to confess if I saw it on my son’s phone, I would have assumed it was a WhatsApp type messenger. Kik is also free and with it’s user anonymity, the potential for maliciousness is high. Cyber-bullying is a serious issue and yet apps like these are readily available.
Clearly it’s not enough to keep your computer in the living room. We need to be more aware of everything our kids do and we need to be far more aware than we already are. Telling them to be wary of chatting to strangers online is second nature to most of us now, especially if you’ve watched Catfish. Now we need to tell them what to do if someone sends them an explicit message, whether text, photo or video. We need to explain to them that sharing that stuff is wrong, hurtful and potentially dangerous to all involved. Sending an explicit photo can and will result in police action and once over the age of twelve, a child can be charged with sharing explicit material which in turn can land them with a sex offender label. It’s not just a slap on the wrist and a don’t do it again.
Parents, it’s our responsibility to teach our kids and teach them properly. Let them enjoy gadgets and technology but don’t ever think we know enough.