I love the interwebz. A lot. So much so that if I forget my cellphone or ipad when I go out, I start having heart palpitation’s. It has become my connection to the world, my friends and unlimited information. Google has “diagnosed” many of my illnesses, Youtube & Pinterest have inspired me and taught me about things I’ve never even heard of. Facebook has connected me to my past and Twitter has given me the gift of many new & amazing friendships. I love the Internet.
In saying all that, I also recognize how dangerous this big open virtual playground can be. It is filled with pictures, people, ideas and opportunities that I don’t consider healthy or safe. It has allowed us to become over-informed, over-stimulated and much more bold than we would ever be in “real life”. The screen has become something that we can hide behind and become whoever we want to be. It’s easier to be a total jerk, to bully, to tease and to just be downright annoying. It brings the whole world into the privacy of our own homes and leaves us alone with nothing but our conscience to judge or challenge our choices.
As an adult, I know how hard it can be to always keep myself in check. To guard what I post or how I respond as words don’t always relay exactly what I’m trying to say. I’ve learned to question things that I see and read. I understand that the Internets idea of reality, isn’t actually so. I’m an adult and it’s tough … imagine what it’s like to be a child or a teenager? With one click of a button, you get to see things that you’ve never seen or even heard of before.
As parents, we need to keep them safe. Not blinded without access but safe.
As my kids have grown, I’ve found lots of little ways to stay on top of their internet usage and to help them make good choices. Lots of people have commented that I’m too tough, or that I do too much “spy work” and don’t give them enough privacy. Frankly, I don’t care. I’ve got 18 years to help them become the best that they can be, and I take that job very seriously. My job is to guide them, protect them, and help them make choices that they’re not yet strong enough to make. Based on that principle, I give you this.
My Guide to Monitoring Kids on the Internet. (Super basic, super easy stuff that works).
Number One. Do NOT be so naïve in thinking that you’ll just keep your kids off the internet and block them from everything. You can probably do that to some level, but guaranteed they’re sneaking around behind your back. AND you’re not monitoring it AT ALL. Teachers also use the internet & Facebook for a lot of stuff now. Your kids are GOING to have to access it.
* Even if you’ve allowed an account somewhere, watch it. Have you noticed that it’s suddenly gone silent or the posts are few & far between. Odds are really good your kid has another account. Find it. (They’re favourite thing to do is to reverse their names, use a middle name or something really stupid. Usually, they keep at least one of their real names in their alter-ego)
Number Two. Help your kids set up the accounts that they want to have, especially Facebook. Set their privacy settings so they’re not sharing everything, with everyone, everywhere. Teach them to not list their school, address, phone number, etc. Talk about why it’s not safe, how the internet is forever, how people lie, etc. They’re going to laugh at you, but keep saying it.
* Check these settings and what is displayed on their pages on a regular basis. Facebook quite often asks for updates and they just fill them out without thinking. Also, update the privacy & restrictions in their devices and then password it. That’s the simplest way to stop explicit apps & information from being downloaded & shared. For my younger kids, I actually remove Safari/Explorer from their devices completely.
Number Three. Passwords. Know them, so you’re able to enter their account at any time and see everything. They may have blocked you from seeing some stuff, so this is the simplest way to see what you’re missing and/or to remove any inappropriate stuff.
* At our house, if I pick up your electronics or go to log into something and I don’t know the password. The item belongs to me for a week. (Not just apps, but passwords for the actual electronics as well). If I have no access, neither will they.
Number Four. Check stored photos, videos, and search requests. Lots of people don’t check there & it’s so important to do. These items can be very telling and/or very shocking. It’s also a great way to know what you need to talk to your kids about.
*If I find something inappropriate, I take a screen shot, and then delete it. I then show them what I’ve found, and we have a serious conversation about it. Full access is then completely revoked for a week, and then earned back slowly. You get wifi back, but not Facebook etc.
Number Five. Go through their Friends list, and challenge your kids on how they know the people that they’re “friends” with. If they can’t tell you, delete them. Kids will befriend pretty much anyone that asks to be their friend, and once that connection is made, strangers have access to all their info.
*If you see really suspicious or odd names, look further. I’ve found many conversations from “hot chicks” that are very exploratory & inappropriate. There are predators out there, so be aware.
Number Six. Make up a fake account with the picture of a cute boy/girl and befriend your kids. 🙂 You’ll be surprised at how quickly they accept your friend request, and by being a “friend” that they consider a peer, you’ll be able to monitor things from another viewpoint.
* Yes, this is pretty sneaky and spy-ish. And yes, I have 2 separate alter-egos. LOL.
Number Seven. Instagram. Youtube. Textplus. Skype. Are not innocent apps …. watch them. Closely. We don’t allow Skype on any of our kids personal electronics at all as it’s all too easy to participate in a “free show”. 😉
* Check their phones/ipads/laptops, etc. and see what apps they are using. Ensure that you have passwords and that you personally follow all of their accounts. Stuff may still happen, but you’ll be aware of it and will be able to deal with it.
Number Eight. Nobody goes to bed with their electronics. Pick a time for them to be brought down to the kitchen or your bedroom. Nothing good happens after dark … especially when you’re 14 & alone.
*When they complain that they won’t be able to wake up in the morning, hand them an alarm clock. For super saavy people, you can shut down their IP addresses at a certain time so all internet access is limited.
Number Nine. Snapchat. Kik. Ask FM. Delete them, and when they re-add them, delete them again. These apps are scary, and are SUPER hard to monitor. The potential for abuse, harassment and sexting is HUGE with these ones. They are going to scream and complain about this, but don’t give in. If they need to send pictures, they can do it a million other ways.
*I’ve changed the settings in my kids phones/ipads so that they’re able to download apps and/or updates, but they cannot delete them. This allows them to receive updated versions of games, etc without me having to log-in to do that. But it doesn’t allow them to delete the evidence of using something I’d disapprove of. This REALLY makes them think because they know I’ll catch them. 🙂
And this: Why you should delete Snapchat
Number Ten. Set up a support system with your kids friends parents. If you see something inappropriate within their group, say something. I know that I would want someone to tell me if they knew something about my kids. Be open if someone approaches you, and don’t instantly shut them down. It may turn out to be nothing but it could be huge, check it out.
*I saw a group of 16 year old kids plan out an entire bush party on Facebook. They posted the address, directions, amount owing for the 2 kegs they had already purchased, etc. This was 100+ underage kids drinking & driving in our neighbourhoods. I called the police.
MOST IMPORTANTLY. Your kids are on the internet. They’re using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, etc. FIGURE OUT HOW THEY WORK…..you need to be one step ahead of them at all times. You don’t need to become a social media genius, but you do need to learn about privacy settings, tagging, abbreviations, etc. Thankfully, our kids think we’re dumb, so with even a little bit of work, you can stay well-informed.
There’s also some great little apps that we can install on our electronics to track and control what/when our kids do online. Use these to help you be aware of what your kids are up to. They’re a great help and back-up for when you forget. Don’t put all of your trust in them, and stay diligent yourself, but use these.
Apple Users can try: Parent Kit
Android Users can try: Funamo
Some cellphone companies also have some monitoring services as well. Ask your provider if they’re able to actually send you your kids texting conversations. If you want to know where your kids are at all the time, turn on their locator device, subscribe to a tracker via your cellphone company or try this. Be sure to not forget about your home computer, especially if it’s in a dark corner of your basement. Again, check your “internet options” and update your privacy settings but you can also use this awesome program for another layer of security.
I’m not saying that you need to do all of this or even any of it. What I am asking you to do is to be aware. Keep your eyes open, listen to your kids, monitor the time spent on their devices and don’t be afraid to say No. They do not need full access to everything at all times, no matter if they yell that you’re mean and the only one that doesn’t let them use certain things. You need to be the little voice in their head teaching them right from wrong until their voice gets strong enough to speak alone. Say No, but then talk. Explain why you’re restricting things, why it’s good for them, and why you’re not changing your mind. These opportunities are some of the best & most memorable teachers, don’t let them slip by.
I so dearly love the Internet but I love my Kids more. Even if it makes me the worst mother in the world.