The number one concern of most parents is keeping their children safe and healthy. The Internet, smart phones, and cell phones have added a level of concern that parents just a few years ago did not have to worry about! Some children are more at risk than others. Children with learning disabilities or attention problems often make the wrong decisions while online. Others who have trouble interpreting social cues when face-to-face, will have double the trouble when in the cyber world. They may be more easily tricked into giving away information that puts them in danger from child predators. (See Social Skills and Learning Disabilities.] They may be more at risk of becoming a bully or being bullied online, as well. [See Poor Social Skills Can Lead to Bullying.]
Because parents cannot be everywhere all the time, children often know more about the cyber world than their parents, and children often do things impulsively without considering the consequences, I recommend the following.
- Educate yourself and educate your children about cyber safety.
- Monitor your children’s cyber activities the same way you monitor other things they do.
- Online activities should take place in the family room rather than in the bedroom, and cell phones and laptops should stay with parents after bedtime.
- Understand the types of technology your children use. Learn how to text message and to check the messages your children send and receive. It is your responsibility to do this and when your children object just tell them that you have to, you are their parent!
- Be a part of your child’s social networks, especially if they are involved with chat rooms where child predators tend to "hang out." (I do not recommend allowing children in chat rooms.) If children know their parents are in the same social network and one of their online "friends," they are less likely to write things without thinking about the consequences. One of my students said recently, "I could never do that because my mother would see it." That is excellent parenting!
- Make use of the excellent resources to help you learn how to keep your children safe. There are some very powerful videos you might watch with your children here.. I especially recommend watching the one called "Irreversible" as it points out the importance of preventing bullying online. Netsmartz and Safekids are two excellent sites for parent resources. Another excellent article to read is Internet Safety Tips for Parents.
- If you think your parent’s organization might be interested in sponsoring an Internet Safety Night, check out this site for a free planning kit.
Educating yourself and your children about the dangers involved with technology goes a long way in helping to keep them safe in the cyber world. This is even more important for children who struggle with learning disabilities, because the risk to them may be even greater.