Parents are usually vigilant if their children are playing near a road. It’s dangerous there. Same goes with a cliff face. It would be rare to see a parent throwing and kicking a ball to his child near the edge of a precipice. It could be dangerous.
But there appears to be a trend among parents in relation to their children’s safety. Most parents seem to be far more vigilant with their children’s physical safety than they are with their ‘virtual’ or online safety. Here’s what I mean…
- Would your child become facebook friends with someone she didn’t know in real life?
- Would your child agree to meet a ‘stranger’ that he is only friends with online in the ‘real world’? Even if that stranger was another ‘child’?
- Would your child give out personal details on social media or gaming sites?
- Would your child share his online passwords with friends?
- Would your child know what pictures are appropriate to post (and view)?
- Would your child get involved in a flaming war? (And do you know what it is to be flamed?)
- And lastly, would your child know what links are safe to click, and what links are not so safe?
McAfee, and the not-for-profit education provider, Life Education (the guys with Harold the Giraffe). These two organisations have developed a Cyber-Safety education program for children in grades 3-6 to help them use the Internet safely. (You can read the news reports of the program here.) I am a member of the Advisory Panel behind the development of the program.
Australia’s Prime Minister, Ms Julia Gillard spoke at the event as well, putting her full support behind the program and indicating that safety online is an imperative for Australia’s children. It’s that big of a deal.
The program will go out to over 600 000 Australian school children each year! And they need it.
It’s not the job of McAfee and Life Education to do this!
The thing is, it’s actually up to parents to keep their kids safe. But it seems we can do more.
In a study commissioned by McAfee in 2012, nearly 6% of Australian kids said they would (or had met) someone in real life that they had only previously dealt with online? Scary.
And most kids say their parents have NO IDEA what they’re doing online. Supervision is non-existent. It seems that parents aren’t talking with their kids about being safe online.
How do we teach online safety?
One of the more common questions I get from parents is
“How do I manage my kids’ computer and mobile use?”Teaching our children to be safe online, and to regulate the amount of time they spend connected is as important as teaching them about road, pool, or stranger safety in the real world.
How do we do that?
- Communicate, communicate, communicate. Our kids need us to be teaching them, and they need us to listen to their questions and experiences.
- Work together on limit setting. A few weeks ago our first cyber-sensation of 2013 told her son ‘how it has to be’ if he was to continue to enjoy the privilege of an i-phone he received as a gift. This is great! A written contract can work wonders. But putting it together collaboratively is just as important.
- Monitor, supervise, monitor, supervise. We need to be the POS (Parent Over Shoulder). We need to check browser history. We need to be their friend on facebook, follow them on twitter, subscribe to their Tumblr feed, and watch their platforms.
- Then, we repeat these steps again and again.