WEB-SAVVY KIDS

Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances add heaps of par­ent­ing chal­lenges. We of­fer some tips to help with In­ter­net safety

The Kids Post - - Contents - by Mira Saraf

When I was a kid, most of us were lucky if our fam­ily owned a clunky desk­top ma­chine run­ning MSDOS. There was no Face­book, no Twit­ter, no cell­phones and cer­tainly no in­sta-any­thing. So the task of pro­tect­ing your child from the on­line traps and pit­falls might seem a bit daunt­ing. But don’t worry, it’s not as dif­fi­cult as it may first ap­pear.

Have a con­ver­sa­tion

“You have to start the dis­cus­sion early,” says Signy Ar­na­son, the direc­tor of Cy­ber­tip.ca at the Cana­dian Cen­tre for Child Pro­tec­tion. “You’ve got to set the ex­pec­ta­tion that you’re in­volved and you’re in­vested, and that starts as soon as your kid be­comes con­nected to tech­nol­ogy.”

Th­ese are con­ver­sa­tions you should be having any­way, about healthy re­la­tion­ships and treat­ing oth­ers with re­spect.

Al­though fil­ter­ing or com­puter lock­ing soft­ware are use­ful tools, they can­not re­place the value of an un­wa­ver­ing un­der­stand­ing between par­ent and child.

“There are many ways, as we all know, to get around lock­ing soft­ware,” says Jane Tal­lim, co–ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Me­di­aS­marts, “and if kids re­ally want to do it, they will.”

But if they know you’re pay­ing at­ten­tion, they will push the bound­aries a lit­tle less. Turn­ing off the wire­less router at night and mon­i­tor­ing how much data kids are us­ing on their cell­phones are two ex­cel­lent places to start.

Stay cur­rent

With all the other de­mands of be­ing a par­ent, stay­ing on top of the cut­ting edge might seem like mis­sion im­pos­si­ble, but there are a few tricks that don’t in­volve spend­ing your lunch hour scour­ing dry tech­nol­ogy blogs.

Par­ents can sign up for Cy­ber­tip alerts from www.cy­ber­tip.ca. They send out up­dates about the lat­est trends in so­cial net­work­ing and tech­nol­ogy, which help par­ents zero in on what their kids will be us­ing next.

Ac­cept your lim­i­ta­tions

Un­der­stand that in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions — es­pe­cially in cases of cy­ber­bul­ly­ing and ex­plicit images posted on­line — kids may not want to in­volve their par­ents.

For th­ese sit­u­a­tions, it’s re­ally im­por­tant to give your chil­dren the skills to rec­og­nize when things have got­ten out of con­trol. There are re­sources such as www.need­help­now.ca to as­sist them, par­tic­u­larly with re­mov­ing un­wanted con­tent from the In­ter­net.

Jane Tal­lim has an­other ap­proach: have them teach you.

“Ask­ing your child to show you how things work can ac­tu­ally be a very em­pow­er­ing thing,” she says. “Get­ting into the habit of sharing things with your chil­dren and not feel­ing like you have to be the ex­pert is im­por­tant, and then what you bring is the adult ex­pe­ri­ence to what you’re both look­ing at.”

At the end of the day, you will not know ev­ery­thing about what your child has done on­line, and that is OK.

“You ask any adult if their par­ents, in fact, knew what they were do­ing when they were teens. Ev­ery­one says no, they had no idea,” says Ar­na­son. “So I think we’ve got to be re­al­is­tic in what our ex­pec­ta­tions are.”

In­ter­ested in what’s go­ing on on­line? Have your kids teach you!

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