I like this new document about guarding your online reputation that has just been jointly published by Reputation Defender and the Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe). They list these “3 Key Tips for Parents” for how to deal with concerns about their children’s online safety, privacy, and reputation:
1. Keep Current with Technology: Talk to teachers about what forms of Internet safety tools they implement in computer labs and technology classes, consider these safety tools for home use, and stay up-to-date on the capabilities of any mobile devices your child may have.
2. Keep Communicating with Your Kids: Find out who your child talks to online, educate your kids about the permanence of any “digital footprints” they leave behind, limit the use of social networks, and make it a habit to engage your kids in critical conversation—the more you talk to your kids about their online usage, the more they will learn to use digital products in a safe and healthy manner.
3. Keep Checking Your Kid’s Internet Activity: Keep computers in a central public location, check your child’s browsing histories, and limit your child’s computer time—there’s a whole world of outdoor and offline activities where they should be involved!
All good advice. I especially like their focus on getting parents to communicate early and often with their kids. It’s something I have beat the drum about quite a bit in my own work on the subject.
Specifically, they rightly stress the importance of “encourag[ing] your child to think critically and evaluate sources of online information, and about promises made by other people online.” “[M]ake it a habit to engage your kids in critical conversation,” they stress. “The more you talk to your kids about their online usage, the more they will learn to use digital products in a safe and healthy manner.”
Here are some of the questions they suggest to parents that will help them get these conversations rolling with their kids:
- “How much time do you spend online when you’re not at home?”
- “What kinds of things do you or your friends usually do when you’re online?”
- “Show me your favorite sites.”
- “Why are they your favorites?”
- “Are there any websites you don’t like? Why don’t you like them?”
- “Do you talk to other people online?”
- “Who are they?”
- “What do you talk about?”
- “Are you the same person online as you are offline?”
All good stuff. This how responsible parenting in the Information Age gets started. It’s never easy to have such conversations, but they are essential. Especially if we don’t want lawmakers proposing that Uncle Sam become our national nanny.