RALEIGH, N.C., April 10, 2014 /PRNewswire/ –We live in a world fueled by technology – and more importantly, so do our children. It is hard enough to monitor our kids’ online activities and keep them safe from Internet predators when Mom and Dad live in the same house, but what happens when they are separated or divorced? As if going through the separation and divorce wasn’t enough, the Internet presents a whole new set of co-parenting challenges. So, as parents, what can we do to keep our kids safe?
THE COMPUTER IS NOT A BABYSITTER: No matter how tempting it is to let your kids go up to their bedrooms with their laptops and tablets, don’t do it. As experienced forensic investigator Derek Ellington of Ellington Digital Forensics tells us, “Computers belong in the family room or kitchen. A computer in the bedroom not only allows for a secrecy that can put kids at risk, it fosters an isolated feeling that can be exploited by friends and predators to wedge kids from their families.” In addition to limiting their computer usage to the common areas of the house, another way to help keep your kids safe is to set time limits, including specific times of the day when they are allowed to access the computer. Teaching our children responsible computer usage is key.
IF THEY HAVE ACCESS TO IT, SO DO YOU: Another important rule to remember is that if your kids have access to an online account or service, so should you. Anything that they do online should be subject to parental review. As the parent, you should have all of the login and password information for any account that your child may have online, whether it be a Facebook page, Instagram account, or otherwise. If they can access it, so can you. No exceptions.
ONCE IT’S OUT THERE, IT’S THERE FOREVER: One of the most important things we can teach our children about using the Internet responsibly is that anything they post online, email to someone, or upload anywhere is potentially there forever and can be seen by anyone, not just the intended recipient. When asked if he has seen firsthand the unintended consequences of technology use by children and teens, Mr. Ellington advised, “I have had many cases where underage girls emailed inappropriate pictures to ‘boyfriend only’ that ended up all over school and then on amateur pornography sites.”
With more and more children having smart phones with built-in cameras, webcams, and Internet access, teaching our children responsible technology usage is becoming an even bigger issue. Getting children to understand that pictures they take of themselves today can come back to haunt them in the future is crucial.
BOTH NEED TO BE ON THE SAME PAGE: For separated and divorced parents in particular, consistency is imperative. The rules for technology usage should be the same at Mom’s house as they are at Dad’s. Both parents should be on the same page with respect to what they think is age appropriate for their children. Not only should parameters be set for Internet and smart phone usage, but age appropriate video games should be considered as well. Unfortunately, gaming consoles are yet another way that predators are able to find our children.
Finally, parents should not attempt to use their technology rules, or lack thereof, as a way to gain favor with their children. Being the least restrictive parent when it comes to technology rules for your children is not necessarily a good thing. As parents, we must exercise appropriate control over the technology our children are using, without allowing it to become a source of competition with the other parent.