A little fun fact about me, I LOVE true crime shows. I literally fall asleep at night to Forensic Files or anything on the Investigation Discovery channel. Recently I have found myself binge watching a show called Web of Lies and oh my goodness this show is so good. The premise of the show is to highlight the dangers of the internet and the different crimes that begin on the internet. There was one episode that absolutely shook me to the core where I felt I had to sit all of my kids down and have a very serious discussion about the dangers of the internet and social media. I mean, there are some crazy people out there and they can be very dangerous.
Growing up, the internet wasn’t as easily accessible as it is now. I’m not trying to date myself here but, my earliest memories of the internet are different. I remember signing in through AOL’s dial up system and praying the little yellow man would hurry across the three boxes on the screen to be united with his friends so I could be on the world wide web. Hearing the, “You’ve got mail” voice was equally exciting, but I digress. The internet now is just a push of a button on our cell phones, our apple watches, or tablets. Long gone are the days of waiting to be connected and being disappointed with a busy signal.
Over the years the internet has made leaps and bounds with it’s reach and accessibility. It can be a great tool for research, keeping in touch with family members, or reconnect with old friends. For all of it’s benefits, the internet can also be a dark place where even adults can have trouble navigating. My teenagers are chomping at the bit to have social media accounts. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I’m not as eager. Being able to broadcast your life to millions, even thousands of strangers is weird. I want nothing more than to shield my children from the dangers of the internet. As much as I push back on their insistence of creating social media accounts, I feel the best thing I can do is educate them.
Each year my middle schoolers have an internet safety seminar. This particular seminar was about how to keep our children safe on the internet and how not to use the internet as a weapon. I honestly consider myself lucky that I didn’t have to grow up in the era where social media dictates life. I’m glad to not have all of my bad decisions in life caught on video for the world to see. As a result, going “viral” for those bad decisions also gives me a sense of gratefulness. I feel a sense of helplessness for my children though. That sense of helplessness is why having safety tips for my teens is important.
When we are setting up social media accounts, most are defaulted to the most public settings. Always check the privacy settings on your accounts and make sure that each account is set to private. Online predators are real. Public settings are an easy way for predators to recognize background information to locate our children.
I know how exciting it can be to get a friend request! Similarly, I get the same feeling when I receive one. Every friend request should not be treated equally. Friend request will come, but don’t compromise your safety by accepting requests from stranger. The amount of followers on your account shouldn’t be a motivating factor for compromising your safety.
It’s important that we remind our children not to post everything about themselves. I repeat the importance of not posting personal information to my children all the time. Making posts with the name of their school, their address, or phone number is never a good idea. The internet is forever. Deleting posts online might work for the moment, but posts are forever. Screen shots are real.
I spoke earlier about the show Web of Lies on the Investigation Discovery channel and one thing that always astonished me about the show was the way children are being bullied online. I mean I follow the Shade Room on Instagram but the viciousness of children seems to mirror those of adults. It should go without saying that being kind both in person and online are important. I’ll leave you with the saying my grandmother said to me, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
If I’ve learned anything as a parent, I know I can’t shelter my children forever. I have the need to keep them safe at all times. While I know I can’t keep an eye on them 24/7 my plan is to make sure that I equip them with what they need to make the most informed decisions online. My hope is that these internet safety tips will help keep our children safe.