Alex Merton-McCann McAfee’s Cybermum in Australia. Alex, is a mother of four boys aged 9 to 16, who juggles family, work, home life, sporting commitments, hobbies and her children’s ever growing social lives (on and offline). Like many Australian parents, Alex has concerns about the safety of her children, who are growing up in an increasingly online world. Alex’s blogs covers topics around internet safety issues as well as sharing her own experiences, insights and lessons to help keep kids and families safe online.
Alex has written this guest post for us:
5 Tips for Sydney Chic
Get involved in your child’s online world
As a parent, it is very clear: if you aren’t out there in the digital game with your kids – they will absolutely be out there without you! So get your gear on and get in the game!
Join social media and learn how it works. Set up an MSN, Instagram, Facebook, Skype, Google+ or Twitter account – whatever your child uses and engage with them online
Check out your kids online – 38 percent of parents have never seen their teen’s online profile
With 95% of teens on Facebook, I would focus your energy here. Friend your child on Facebook, read their posts, check out their friends – how many do you know? – what makes them tick – what are they into? Maybe even establish a Facebook group for your family – great way to stay in touch and for parents to see first hand how it works!
Talk to your tech savvy child – communication is key!
Even though your tech savvy child appears to be ‘all over’ the online world, believe me, they do not understand the risks
And whilst the research shows that 80% of parents think they are having the online conversations with their kids, I really question what they are talking about. I know anecdotally of well-educated parents who are either overwhelmed or too scared about tackling their teenagers about their online lives
Start early and keep talking about Internet safety
Encourage your kids to talk to you and speak up if they feel uncomfortable with anything they see online. Make sure they understand they won’t get in trouble if they tell you about a problem
Establish rules together
Start with time allowed online – use the oven timer and STICK TO IT, better still parental controls
Outline what information your child can put on websites and share with others. Explain why sharing home address, telephone and even details of the school they attend can be a problem
Agree what sites are appropriate and what aren’t – don’t beat around the bush. If you are not convinced they are getting it then think about parental controls – these can either block or monitor what sites your teens are visiting
Introduce a charging zone: all internet enabled devices to be placed on chargers in the kitchen at 9pm. They need time away from their devices
Remember, the adults are in charge
Educate your child just like you would in the offline world
Online manners and respect seem to evaporate the minute some people’s fingers hit the keyboard – and this just doesn’t apply to children! So focus back on the Golden Rule that I am sure you learnt yourself as a five year old - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
Talk about technology safety just like you talk about safety while driving and playing sport. Explain that online friends are not really true friends – they may in fact not be who they say they are. Explain the risks of sharing personal information online
Ensure you talk often about the concept of digital reputation with your kids. The Cyberworld is a public space, you are on display. Help your teens understand how to make responsible choices about what they post – because anything they put online can be misinterpreted or taken out of context. School captaincies can be forfeited, scholarships ‘missed’ and jobs lost because of poor digital reputation
It is essential to include cyberbullying as part of your educational chats with your kids. Ensure your kids know to come to either yourself or a teacher is they are either experiencing cyberbullying or witnessing it online. Teach your children not to be a silent bystander and to stand up for friends, not to sit by and do nothing. For small kids, even a few words can be catastrophic
Use technology such as security settings, parental controls & monitor regularly
Parenting in this century is all about balancing your teen’s growing independence and need for privacy with your safety concerns. Invest in some top-shelf security software to protect yourself and your kids against viruses, spyware and hackers
It is impossible to be constantly standing over your child’s shoulder whilst they are online so having comprehensive security software will minimise the risk of your children doing things like (accidentally!?) downloading a nasty virus when entering competitions for free phones!
Remember even though your kids are tech savvy, they don’t have the same appreciation for risk
McAfee’s LiveSafe Internet Protection package provides protection for your entire fleet of devices including mobile phones and tablets. In addition to the internet protection, LiveSafe also offers a Password Manager that can generate and store unique and strong passwords; a secure Digital Locker that will keep your store your sensitive documents securely (passports etc) plus protection for your mobile devices – so no excuses to be without protection!
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