Parents are the first line of defense when it comes to protecting kids offline and online. As much as we want to pass on this role to others when it comes to the online world, the reality is that all parents are actually equipped to be the defenders of their children online as much as they are offline. Most every answer to the question of 'what should we do to keep our kids safe online?' comes from the online world. We've all done it: don't talk with strangers, don't give up your personal information, don't go somewhere alone, don't go down a dark alley, be nice to others, be respectful, be helpful to your friends... and the list goes on. And yet, the lack of understanding of the technology that drives the online world is likely the single most common reason why parents tend to shy away from thinking they can keep their kids safe online.
Technology has changed so much in the last two decades that it's hard to keep pace with all the developments.
Before we throw our hands in the air in frustration and become lean back parents, remember the book by Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. It is time for us to engage with our own children and become lean forward parents. When it comes to technology, let us take the title of Fulghum's book to the next level: All I Really Need to Know I Will Learn from My Kindergartner.
Here are some tips on getting started:
1. Kids love to teach as much as they love to learn. Hold a technology learning class every week where you are the student and your child is the teacher.2. Weekly learning topics can include:
- How to set up a Facebook profile and privacy settings
- What is Foursquare or Tumblr and how to use it
- How to use Facebook for group chats
- How to find and install apps
- What is Instagram and what do people do on it?
- What is everyone using at school?
- How to play Club Penguin and Xbox Kinect and other games
- What are some of the bad ways for using these apps and devices?
3. Have your kids and their friends teach a larger class for other parents.
4. Have each of your children talk about what they like most and least about the technology they use.
5. Ask for homework (I know, this brings back bad memories of school, but suck it up).
6. During class, ask lots of questions including the safety, security and privacy questions you know so well.
These are just a few ways to help you be the parents that keep their kids safe online and offline. And remember, the best technology educators in the country are sitting down for supper in your kitchen every night.