Pedophiles, cyberbullies, and suicide challenges. If you were to believe every thing you read in the headlines, the Internet and social media is the last place you want you want your children. The Internet is nothing new, but even after all this time has passed, there are some myths that people hold on to, perhaps because they are perpetuated in the media or by word of mouth. There are now generations of children who have literally grown up online. And while their parents (you) may still be getting comfortable with different forms of social media, their kids are experts in the field.
Here’s a list of 3 Common Myths and Truths that may help you and your kids navigate the Internet safely and responsibly, no matter the latest gossip:
Myth #1: Teaching kids not to talk to strangers is the best way to keep them safe online.
Truth: Teaching kids to recognize predatory behavior will help them avoid unwelcome advances.
In today’s world, where kids as young as 8 are interacting with people online, they need to know the boundary between appropriate and inappropriate conversation. Kids are often pressured by their own friends to talk about sex, so they need to know it’s OK to tell peers to back off. Go beyond “stranger danger” and teach them what kind of questions are not OK (for example, not OK: “Are you a boy or a girl?”; “Where do you live?”; “What are you wearing?”; “Do you want to have a private conversation?”). Also, teach kids to not go looking for thrills online. Risky online relationships more frequently evolve in chat rooms when teens willingly seek out or engage in sexual conversation.
Myth #2: Parental controls are the best way to monitor my kids’ online activities.
Truth: Focusing on only one Internet safety method lulls you into a false sense of security.
To keep your kids safe online — and to raise them to be responsible, respectful digital citizens — it takes more than installing parental controls. For starters, parental controls can be defeated by determined kids. They also often catch too much in their filters, rendering any Internet search useless, and they set up a “parent vs. kid” dynamic that could backfire.
By all means, use parental controls to help prevent exposure to age-inappropriate material and to manage time limits. But don’t think they get you off the hook. Continue to discuss responsible, respectful online behavior, set rules and consequences for misbehavior, and train your kid to manage his or her own usage.
Myth #3: Social media alienates kids.
Truth: Most kids say social media strengthens their relationships.
Most kids want to have fun, hang out, and socialize normally online — and in fact, according to the Pew Research Internet Project, that’s what the majority is doing. Check out these comforting stats:
- 57 percent of all teens have made new friends online
- 84 percent of boys who play networked games with friends feel more connected when they play online
- 68 percent of teen social media users have had online friends support them through tough or challenging times
There you have it- 3 Myths, busted! And while parenting today is never easy and is always a learning process, these “truths” should help you when discussing online safety with your kids. At Project B3, we highly suggest keeping an eye open for what particular apps they are using and making sure they are age-appropriate for your child. While social media is a fun way to connect with friends and make new friends- they need to be appropriate friends.
*Information from the above list was found on Common Sense Media.