This time of year, kids are heading back to school after summer break - and they might be in need of some new devices. Smart phones, laptops, e-readers, and tablets are commonplace in school and at home. If your kid or teen is a new user of digital devices, then one of the most important things you can do as a parent is to teach them about safety. At STOMP Out Bullying, we believe that becoming educated about the digital world and sharing that information with your kids is the best way to help them navigate the internet. After all, the best tablet for kids is one that they can use safely and appropriately.
Here are a few tips for helping kids stay safe in the digital space.
Digital Tips for Creating the Best Tablet Experience for Kids and Teens
Social media can play a huge role in your kid’s circle of friends, at school, and beyond. Make sure they understand what is okay and what is not okay when it comes to behavior on social media sites. Let them know that pictures are forever - posting inappropriate, revealing, or offensive pictures of either themselves, or friends, can become a huge problem. It could even be illegal if the person in the inappropriate photo is a minor. Kids need to know that their privacy and reputation is at stake when they begin posting on social sites.
Additionally, posting an embarrassing or inappropriate photo of someone else could also be considered cyberbullying.
Unfortunately, social media can be a hotbed of cyberbullying, hurtful and offensive posts, and more. It’s imperative that your kid understands what is and isn’t appropriate - whether done by them or to them. Check in on your kids’ social media accounts and be aware of what’s happening. Let them know that if someone is cyberbullying them, there are ways to deal with the situation and there is help available. Also, did you know that most social media sites/apps require you to be 13 years of age? So, if your kids are under 13, you will want to find age-appropriate sites/apps.
This goes hand-in-hand with social media, but it can happen anywhere on the internet or on a smart phone or tablet. Harassment is never okay. Explain to your kids that if someone is sending them unwanted or hostile messages, texts, or emails that it is not okay. A good way to reduce potential exposure to harassment or cyberbullying is to limit your kid or teen’s access.
Parents looking to limit their kid’s time online or a digital device can set specific hours for them to have it. For example, they might be allowed to use their tablet in a common area from 8PM to 9PM and then it’s yours for the rest of the evening. This could help you be more aware of what they’re doing on the tablet as well as limiting their access and time spent communicating with peers online.
Whether or not you feel it’s okay for your teen to date, it’s important to discuss internet dating sites. Their peers might expose them to it, they might come across them on their own - whatever the case, now is the time to set boundaries. Online dating can be especially dangerous for underage teens. It can be impossible to tell whom you are actually communicating with online or via digital device. This is another situation when it’s important to limit your teen’s tablet or smart phone access when you can and to have them use it in a common area.
Don’t be afraid to ask for passwords and login information if your teen is looking to join a dating site. If you’ve decided that it’s okay for your teen to date, make sure that they are not entering an adult dating site and giving out personal information. Thoroughly explain the dangers of online dating for underage teens, let them know that just because someone tells them they are 16 doesn’t mean it’s true. They could be an adult pretending to be a teen. Start an open line of communication if possible.
No matter what, let them know that there’s always help.
Unfortunately, even if you’re the most digitally savvy and internet-conscious parent, there’s still a possibility that your kid or teen will experience cyberbullying or harassment. As a parent, the most important thing you can do to help stop cyberbullying is to start a dialogue about digital safety and keep it going. Let your kids and teens know about the STOMP Out Bullying HelpChat Line for youths 13 - 24 years of age who are being bullied, cyberbullied or are at-risk for suicide.
Remember, as a parent your job is to listen, start the conversation, and provide all the resources you can to help your kids and teens with anything they might be dealing with - whether online or out in the world.
When the HelpChat Line is NOT available and your teens are IN CRISIS please have them contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or the LGBTQ National Youth Talkline at 1-800-246-PRIDE (1-800-246-7743).