As a parent of teenagers, I continually try to keep track of the websites and social media sites that are popular with kids. Facebook is no longer a platform they use to communicate with their friends – instead this is where their parents are active. I ran across this comprehensive article from NBC News highlighting some of the new sites kids are using that most parents are unaware of. Many of these sites were discussed at a parent education class at our middle school and high school presented by McAfee. During the presentation, I was surprised how many parents A. felt it was crucial to track everything their kids were doing on line and B. had no idea how or where to look. I strongly believe you need to know where your kids are posting but there also needs to be a level of trust and communication about on line activity. If you are not asking them what they are doing, they are not going to tell you. Teenagers need to understand what they post and send by text lives in cyberspace forever. Their activity can affect future college acceptances and job offers. Colleges and companies routinely check the digital identity of applicants and some deny positions depending on what they find.
You can no longer easily monitor what your kids are doing by checking the family computer – there are too many ways to get on line now so it is critical your children understand the consequences of the choices they are making when posting personal information on line. You may think you are checking their texts by accessing their phone, but are you checking their Viber or Kik account? What about SnapChat where they can delete pictures after a few seconds. What they don’t understand is that picture is still on a server (or several servers) somewhere and there is an app that saves the pictures without the sender knowing. Here is a great video our high school librarian shared demonstrating choices and consequences when texting.
I want parents to educate themselves but I also want them to talk to their kids. I felt so many parents were just plain scared and their answer to the problem was to figure out how to track everything. I don’t believe that is the answer. Checking your kid’s phone is important but it also can be a violation of trust if you are not up front with them. I think families need to work together to find a middle ground. For more resources, visit the McAfee Online Safety for Kids website. Here you will find a multitude of resources and tips to monitor and discuss on line activity.