As a blogger, school technology magnet coordinator, and social media consultant, I spend my days immersed in technology. Having recently participated in Mom Congress, Wired Safety’s Wired Kids Summit in DC, and through my regular conversations with tech-savvy and tech-scared parents, I keep hearing about the great need for parent education regarding social networking, social media, and the general need for tips on how to keep kids safe online.
Whether you have jumped in to the world of social media or are just getting your feet wet into social networking tools like Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, and FourSquare, do you consider yourself knowledgeable enough to have a conversation with your kids about the risks and rewards of the internet? If you have had family conversations about online boundaries for your kids, have other parents you know done the same in their households?
I hate to be Debbie Downer, but the seedy side of the internet is still out there. The tools that were once invented for the intent of connecting people in a positive way, can also have a dangerous side. Yes, I’m talking about Chat Roulette and Formspring. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I bet your kids do!
But before you ask them to explain Chat Roulette, get online and do some research. While you may not want to pull up either of the aforementioned sites, a simple Google search will tell you everything you need to know. Do the same for any site you don’t know about and have heard your kids mention to their friends or in passing.
These days even the most wired parents are wondering how to keep their younger kids safe online. What would you when your tween requests a Facebook account despite the minimum age being 13? Do you know the content of your kids’ MySpace? If you wonder why there’s such a need to constantly text, maybe you should take a look at what they are sending and receiving on their cell phones.
If I’ve just instilled some fear in you, that’s a good thing. If you are wondering you might keep your kids safe in an online world that changes rapidly, there are many resources available to help you stay knowledgeable about the tools your kids are using. Such resources can help you stay on top of the current issues like the 6 things you need to know about cyberbullying, how to start a conversation about hard-to-talk about topics like grooming (and we aren’t talking about personal hygiene!), what information should and shouldn’t be posted on Facebook, and the dangers of sexting.
Here are some of my favorite resources that help me stay on top of all the issues regarding internet safety:
Yahoo Safely– With distinct resources and links for teens and parents thanks to separate tabs at the top of the page along with informative content from safety experts like ConnectSafely and WiredSafety, this comprehensive site has the power to turn you into an internet safety expert. Take a look at the introduction to online safety, read expert opinions on topics through the Expert Blogs, and make a family pledge for online safety.
MTV’s A Thin Line– If you are having trouble getting through to your kid and need to harness the power of the media, MTV’s A Thin Line is a public service campaign designed to to help teens “identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse in your life and amongst your peers.” MTV designed the campaign to make teens and tweens aware of the fact that “there’s a “thin line” between what may begin as a harmless joke and something that could end up having a serious impact on you or someone else.” Have your kids take the online quiz on the A Thin Line homepage, get facts about topics like sexting, constant texting, digital stalking, and digital disrepect, and watch MTV produced videos that contain powerful messages. If you can’t get through to your kids, hopefully MTV can!
Common Sense Media– This non-profit is dedicated to helping “parents, educators, and young people make better decisions about the media and entertainment in their lives.” Through their resources, Common Sense aims to provide trustworthy information for families to make their own educated choices about all media that consumed in their home. I love that they provide the real deal on social networking. A quick glance at the home page for social networking tools allows me to view how the site were rated and the age the site is most appropriate for. I can mouse over the screenshot to get a 1 paragraph description or click to read a more in depth interview about the good, bad, and the ugly.
BitMoms– This free online community is an internet security and safety resources for moms. The community features a blog where members are welcome to post about issues regarding online safety, discussion forums, and a Content Library where you can find information about talking to your children about internet dangers, how to protect yourself when doing online shopping, protecting your Facebook photos, and PDFs to download and share. I have to admit that I’m a little biased in my love towards this site as the designated Chief BitMom. As Chief BitMom, my role is to blog and vlog(!) about current topics relating to online safety- like how to talk to your kids about sexting and the lowdown on Formspring. If you are sick of me, I promise I’m not the only one who writes blog posts! The BitMoms Blog Network members are a knowledgeable bunch with kids of all ages so feel free to join us in the conversation or take a look at what we are saying! Look for a special Tech Savvy Mama reader bonus for signing up for BitMoms later this week!
Making Social Media Safe for Kids- This slide show presentation explains the various privacy settings on social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace and provides tips on teaching your kids about how to communicate appropriately in online settings. The slide show says, “It is much easier to talk to your kids about being safe online, if you are using the tools themselves.” So true!
Even though internet safety month ends today, the need to keep kids safe online is an ongoing battle and one that needs to be discussed constantly!
This post was inspired by Yahoo! MotherBoard’s June blog topic of online safety. To see what other MotherBoard members are saying about the topic, click here. I work for BitDefender’s BitMoms site as a paid consultant although I am never required to write about the community on my own site. All opinions are my own.
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Original post by Tech Savvy Mama