“Me and Logan are the ONLY two people without a cell phone,” my daughter told me as we rode in the car. I had just asked her if a lot of kids in her grade have them.
On our way to cheer practice when I decided it was a good time to have “the talk.” You know the one. Wait, no, not that one. The tech talk. Where she and I refresh on the dos and don’ts of the internet and discuss what she’s hearing and seeing at school.
After homeschooling for a couple of years she returned to public school last year. Then, this year she started at a brand new school. She is making brand new friends, a year older, and dealing with brand new issues.
I kid you not, between cheer and school, she’s told me stories about hacking, phishing, bullying, and people pretending to be someone they’re not. AND SHE DOESN’T EVEN HAVE A PHONE. My friends, this is why we have the talk.
I’m saying “THE” Tech Talk, but it’s actually just “A” Tech Talk. Because we have these conversations fairly often. Every time, I give her the opportunity to ask me whatever questions she has on her mind, and I bring up a few things. I might even throw in some role play questions (she loves those). We’ve talked about everything from classmates getting hacked, to Momo and questionable language.
I love how much has sunk in. For instance, we were talking about how someone had shared their password with a classmate and another kid logged into his account and wrote something that wasn’t nice. She recalled how it’s important not to share your password, and to make a password challenging enough for others not to guess.
She’s learned these types of tips from playing Google’s Interland which features different quizzes on internet safety that teach her how to set challenging passwords, and what kind of information is safe or unsafe to share.
We arrived at her teammate’s house and I told my daughter we were just gonna keep on with our conversation. She sighed at first, but then grinned and said “okay.”
Her friend joined in.
“Do you ever see bullying among people at school, on social media?” I asked her.
“Oh yea,” she said.
Sadly, this type of behavior isn’t rare. But it’s not something we should fear if we’re prepared.
We talked about blocking people who are saying unkind things, and reporting it. And we even discussed saving proof in case it’s an issue that needs to be addressed later.
My oldest is still years away from managing her own social media accounts, but it’s important to me that we drill these habits early. When you hand your child a cell phone with access to the internet you’re essentially handing them the world at their fingertips. Yes, there are internet safety apps to help filter the content they have access to but what about their friend’s phones?
I’d rather be proactive than reactive. So when something comes up, their response will be more automatic. They will have less of a chance of hesitating to do the right thing.
“What should you do if you see something that’s not appropriate online?” I asked my daughter, continuing our conversation after cheer practice.
“Click off the screen, and find something else to watch,” she replied.
“Yes, that’s one option,” I told her. “But if you saw it on a device at home or school it may be better to tell a teacher or me.”
“But I don’t want to get in trouble if the teacher thinks I was looking for that,” She said concerned.
“You won’t get in trouble,” I tried to assure her. “Sometimes something slips by filters and it’s important for a grownup to know so they can correct it.”
I think as parents we have a tendency to either hand our kids a phone for their birthday, with trust that things won’t get out of hand. A few months later they’re addicted and we have to go back and set some boundaries. Like trying to get the toothpaste back into the tube, it can be hard to backtrack once you’ve started down that road.
The other tendency is to avoid giving our children phones, in hopes that just by not having one, they’ll be safe from all of the online dangers. But they’re on computers and tablets at school. Other kids bring their phones. And eventually they are going to need to learn how to navigate the internet safely. It’s our job to teach them how to do that. Guiding my kids to be their best selves includes giving them tools to overcome obstacles like these themselves.
“Kids don’t have the big-picture perspective that parents have, so we need to help them cultivate their own sense of self-regulation.” – Jason Brand, LCSW.
Today is Safer Internet Day. And it’s a great time to start a regular Tech Talk tradition in your home if you haven’t already. Not sure how to start these discussions or what questions to ask? No problem! Here are three of my favorite resources from Google to help.
Internet Safety Posters
As an adult who is constantly online for work, I consider myself to be pretty “with it”, but I’m not always thinking about what this may all be like for a child just emerging into this world. Having little reminders around keeps these topics, and how I might approach them with my kids on top of mind. Kind of how we want our kids to be prepared when a problem arises, I want to be similarly prepared when my kids come to me with a question or concern. You can download a couple of posters on internet safety (or five) on Google’s Be Internet Awesome site. Each internet safety poster has five tips to keep on top of mind that double as great conversation starters.
Internet Safety Quizzes and Games
We have a computer in our playroom that the kids sometimes use with bookmarked approved sites to visit for learning. One of their favorite games is Interland, where they don’t even realize they are playing different quizzes on internet safety. They are learning how to handle things like cyberbullying, how to keep their information secure. And how to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not.
Internet Safety Family Guides
Whether or not your child already has a cell phone or device they’re regularly using I LOVE this Digital Family Wellbeing Guide to get everyone on the same page. From discussing device-free zones in the home, to using technology to find positive content and learn something new. To having your child prepare a presentation explaining how they’re ready for a new device. I love it as a great starting point for setting ground rules. There are also great sections in there about gaming together. And having family game nights with both digital and board games.
There’s also an interactive digital version of this guide that’s fun to click through together.
All of these tools will help you guys get your Tech Talk going.
Honestly you guys, I could go on and on about this. And I’ll continue to share our journey here. Because someday my oldest won’t be the only kid in her class without a cell phone. Some day she’ll have one (on a loan, from me, accompanied by a contract). And by then, we’ll be ready.