ORIGINALLY POSTED ON YODELINGMAMAS.COM
In honor of National Internet Safety Month in June, Yahoo! released some interesting data from a survey of 2000 U.S. Internet users done to gain insight into consumers’ behaviors and perceptions around online safety. The good news, parents are doing pretty well—Yahoo! gave them a B+. The better news, our Yahoo! Mother Board got the opportunity to speak with Catherine Teitelbaum, Director of Child Safety at Yahoo!, and now we’re all a bit smarter and sharing the insights we learned about keeping families like ours safer online.
Here’s the summary in numbers:
• 70% of parents talk to their children about online safety at least 2-3 times a year; 45% talk to their children least once a month.
• 74% of parents are connected to their children’s profiles on social networking sites.
• 71% of parents have taken at least one action to manage their children’s use of the Internet or cell phones. Parents are checking to see where children are searching online, setting time limits, setting parental controls on video sites, and using filters to limit where their children go on the Web.
And huge kudos to dads:
• 71% of dads (compared to 63% of moms) say they are taking at least one action to help manage their children’s online behavior, including having conversations about respecting the privacy of others and checking their children’s privacy settings.
• Fathers more often check to see what personal information can be easily found about their children by searching their names online.
• 53% of dads surveyed told us they plug their children’s names into a search engine at least 2-3 times per year (compared to 38% of moms), and 33% of dads told us they search at least once a month.
I hate to admit it, but everyone surveyed is doing far better than I am. Granted, my kids don’t go online yet, but I’m constantly connected. And as a mom, and a blogger, I’m often posting pictures, telling stories and building my kids’ digital footprint—long before they have a chance to determine what it will be for themselves. As It’s All About Balance pointed out, it may seem hypocritical to be active online and limit your kids’ exposure, but the reality is we’re adults and can take responsibility for what we put out into the cyber world. Teitelbaum cautioned us that we should be sure our kids are one of the things we take responsibility for. A story you post on a social networking site might be funny today, but it could be embarrassing to them in a few years when they’re in middle school or interviewing for their first job. And once it’s out there, you don’t know where it’s taken on a life of its own. Create a family plan about where you’re going to post pictures, names, stories, etc. Then do “vanity checks” of your name and your kids’ names on a regular basis to see what comes up in search engines. A few Yahoo! Mother Board members were surprised by what they found.
So, how do we talk to our kids? Scraps of My Geek Life took a great approach to discussing cyberbullying with hers. She has four kids ranging from 6-14, so she interviewed them separately to find out what they already know, then had an age-appropriate discussion with each one—explaining what cyberbullying is and what to do about it. And as Bowl Licker pointed out, there are bullies everywhere, so you have to be sure your kids are prepared to deal with them. Pundit Mom agrees that bullying is prevalent—especially in entertainment these days—so by setting a positive example of how to treat others, we’re shaping our kids to be good citizens, in the cyber world and in the real world.
And what about the really little ones…should we really worry when we’re keeping a close eye on them? Plus, there’s software that blocks unsafe sites. As La Jolla Mom learned, it’s not just enough to put the computer in a place where we’re watching—especially with gaming devices and cell phones that are stronger than the computers we had as kids. Teitelbaum—who’s great with analogies—explained that we must give our kids online training wheels. As they learn, we should monitor them closely and ease them into the online world. If we do a good job, we should be confident that they can go it alone and make smart, safe choices—even when they’re on computers that don’t have safety software. And JavaMom pointed out, “As advanced as software has become, it still hasn’t replaced old-fashioned parenting skills.”
So, what are some practical things you can do? Start by simply explaining how the Internet works. Tippy Toes and Tantrums recalled Teitelbaum’s playground analogy (see, I told you she has good ones): Show your kids the URL bar and the header of the page they’re on. Explain that this is an online playground you’ve checked out and is safe for them to play on. If they leave this playground (the URL changes or the page looks different), they need to come find you to have you be sure it’s safe before they explore it. Show them that certain shapes are ads and that those are areas they’re not allowed to click without asking you for help. Explain to them that a password is something only you and they should know. Don’t tell friends because while friends tend to change, passwords don’t.
And as your kids get older, set limits—not only for computer use, but for other devices. Truly think about what cell phone your child “needs” and what hours they “need” it. Consider having them check it in at a certain time each day and don’t let them sleep with their phone…texts and emails are becoming an around-the-clock activity for many. If you allow them to join social networks, be sure you’re one of their connections. Establish an open-door policy and ensure that you look at their texts, emails and online networks from time to time. It may seem like you’re not respecting their privacy, but it’s important that they’re the same person online as they are in real life…and as a parent, you monitor their offline behavior on a daily basis.
If you want more tools, Tech Savvy Mama has a great list of online resources including Yahoo! Safely. The Internet is a wonderful place for discovery, play and learning, it’s just smart to know what you’re getting yourself—and your kids—into.
What it all comes down to for me is what Dirt and Noise said, “Here’s the deal, it’s not the Internet’s responsibility to keep my sons safe. It’s mine.” And after hearing from Teitelbaum, I feel a bit more prepared to do just that. I hope you do too.
*For more posts about Online Safety read the blogs of the Yahoo! Mother Board!*