Today's children and adolescents are the first generation to grow up with technology completely integrated into their daily lives. Noted educational consultant and thought leader Marc Prensky calls these children "digital natives." In contrast to their parents, they have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games, mobile phones, digital music players, digital cameras and all the other tools of the digital age. Their parents, in contrast, are "digital immigrants." They may be technologically savvy, but they still process the world differently that their digital native children.
Encouraging responsible technology use is an essential part of protecting children from online threats. Because it would be impossible for parents to keep up with every new technology platform with which children interact, it is imperative that parents have open dialogs with their children about responsible use of technology and online reputation management. Parents should be concerned not with limiting their children's use of technology or completely removing potential dangers but rather with teaching their children how to behave responsibly and safely in an interconnected world.
Children's Advocacy Center of Collin County is privileged to co-house two full-time cyber crime detectives who are part of the FBI's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Experts on these crimes tell us that the most important tool for protecting children online is positive, open communication with children. Just as you teach your children the rules of the road before handing them the car keys, so you should also teach your children the rules of the Internet before allowing them unfettered access to the digital world.
Resources for further information to help you protect your children:
Parent child conversation starters:
- When you post something online, have you ever wanted to take it back?
- What are some ways that you can use social media for good?
- What would you like our online relationship to look like?
- Tell me about your online friends. Are there any you haven't met in person?
- Are there certain topics about which you would like to know more that you are uncomfortable talking to me about?
- What are your favorite mobile apps? Can you show me how to use them to communicate?
- Do you know how to flag/report inappropriate content in ALL your favorite apps, sites and games?
- Are your profiles set to private? Why or why not?
- What personal information do you share online?
- Have you ever been asked to share an inappropriate picture of yourself or someone else?
- Do you know what to do if someone send or asks for an inappropriate picture?
- If anything happens online that makes you uncomfortable, who could you talk to about that?
- Have you even been bullied or witnessed someone else being bullied? What did you do?
- Have you ever been the bully? Have you ever posted something that you wouldn’t have said to someone face to face?
- What kind of reputation are you building online?
- Do you know the laws associated with online activity?
- Do you know anonymous apps aren’t entirely anonymous?
- Do you know that counselors and future employers are going to be checking your profile?