I decided to watch the most recent episode of The Amazing Race after a night of walking the neighborhood streets with my six-year-old in search of the house with the best candy. The more I watched the show in hopes of finding an online safety, security, or privacy lesson, the more I was distracted by my son sitting on the carpet, still in full Halloween gear, sorting through his loot. As I watched him, watched the show, and watched him again, it occurred to me the dramatic irony of Halloween.
Every day we try to teach our kids to navigate life safely, securely, conscious of how we impact others, and aware of the reputation that will precede us wherever we go. We remind our kids not to take candy from strangers, to be truthful to who we are, to respect those around us, and to be honest about who we are. I've written many articles in which I have tried to highlight what we must teach our kids about staying safe online. We hope that our kids will understand that the Internet is like the real world - full of the good and the bad -- and we hope they will live in the good, avoid the bad, and stay away from the scary.
Then comes Halloween. We tell our kids to dress up like someone else and do it really well so no one can figure out who is behind the mask. We then take them out into the world and ask them to ring the bell on houses filled with strangers and ask for candy. And when they are too scared to go up to a house that is particularly scary, we tell them to suck it up and get up there, that it's no big deal. In fact, we feel as though we must push them forward into the scary situation that lies before them, despite what we might have learned about in articles like mine from last week.
And herein lies an opportunity to think about how similar what we do on Halloween is to what many parents will do or not do online. It is easy to feel a sense of comfort when your child sits at home in front of a computer exploring the world. They are at home after all. The reality is that they are exploring the world and need all the guidance we can give them and that we provide to them daily in their offline lives... well, except on Halloween.
So next time your child goes online, ask yourself, "Are they going out trick or treating?"
For more thoughts on online safety, security, and privacy, check back here every week or visit my website.