I work with parents in my juvenile defense practice and am often asked to provide suggestions on how parents can prepare their children for the online world. While there is no magic bullet solution to this ongoing discussion, I do have a few helpful hints for parents to consider.
Internet Safety Discussion Begins at a Young Age
My first suggestion is to start talking about internet safety with your children at a young age. One of the best ways a parent can do this is by taking the time to sit down with your child, side by side, and go online with them.
Even if your 8 or 9 year old is only going online to play games, this practice is helpful because you have the opportunity to understand the lay of the land from their perspective. You can learn about what sites they like to visit and why they like them and ask them to walk you through particular games, apps, or sites. As you explore with your child, this opens the door for further discussion and gives you a platform to ask questions. You may ask them whether they have ever received unwanted communication by strangers online, or if they have ever felt unsafe online. It is much easier for a parent to require that they go online with a child at 8 years old, versus 15 or 16, so starting early is critical.
Cyberbullying continues to be a hot button topic for parents of youth and teens. The parents that I work with frequently request suggestions in dealing with this prevalent issue. While there is no universal solution, research and my experience shows that the best ideas are the simple ones, like sitting down to eat dinner as a family a few times a week.
Teenagers have always faced bullying, but modern technology has created new methods of harassment. These days, instead of simply taunting a rival in the locker room at school, teenagers can use text messages, social media, and other online platforms to harass each other night and day, both publicly and in private.
Cyberbullying has become widespread in recent years, with recent studies showing that 52% of teens have been cyberbullied. Cyberbullying is not only on the rise; it can also have serious consequences for both the teen being bullied and the perpetrator.
Kathryn Boortz has a passion for working with youth and their families. She is the founder of Boortz Law, a law firm that focuses on juvenile defense.