Last month, we covered four positive conversation starters to help you communicate with your kids about staying safe online. Remember, although talking to your kids about online safety can seem like a daunting task, our kids need (and actually want) guidance and help when it comes to their life experiences online. However, often talking with your kids about their own online behaviors can be met with a bunch of shrugs or uncomfortable seat-shifting, so sometimes, talking with them about what their friends are doing can be a better entry point to help you get a sense for their own online world.
Here are four other, good conversation starters to help you start talking through the negatives your kids—and their friends—might encounter in the online world:
- Do you think some of your friends post inappropriate stuff online? Peruse any teenager’s pictures, comments, “posts”, or “about me” section on any social networking site, and you will probably find something that you think is inappropriate. Find out what your child thinks is and isn’t appropriate. Help them think about using discretion when posting items online.
- Do you know about teens being mean to one another online? Can people spread rumors online? Have people ever said mean things about you online? More and more kids are experiencing online harassment called cyberbullying. Your kids may not know the term “cyberbully”, but they have probably seen other kids being mean online. Tell your children they do not have to accept any online activity that is meant to intimidate, threaten, tease or harm them. And remind them of the golden rule—they should always treat others how they themselves would like to be treated.
- Have any of your friends felt uncomfortable online? Have you felt uncomfortable online? Remember when you were young? We’ve all been in uncomfortable situations, and when we were young, we often didn’t know where to turn. Share stories with your kids, and remember that a big part of growing up involves exploration. Your kids have probably explored a lot of things online, and they may have run into something that was confusing or made them uncomfortable; encourage your kids to come to you whenever something makes them comfortable online.
- Have any of your friends come across pornography? Do any of your friends use pornography? How does that make you feel? Did you want to talk to your parents about sex when you were a teenager? I didn’t think so. If your child has been exposed to sexual content online, chances are they are petrified of talking to you about it. It may be a better approach to talk about what their friends are doing and seeing online and how that makes them feel. Make sure you stress that if they ever do encounter pornography online, they can come talk to you. More and more kids have been drawn into addictive patterns with online pornography; this can be scary and shameful—but open the door for your children to talk to you about this in case they are struggling. Never shame them—understand that pornographers are targeting our youth, and no one is immune to viewing these images.
If you missed our first four conversation starters, make sure you give them a look, and check out our parent resources for more information about protecting your kids online. Also, stay tuned for more online safety conversation starters in the next few weeks!