Mentor More Than You Monitor
Of the many different topics I have researched while working for NetSmartz, one of the most important concepts that I've come across is to mentor more than you monitor. Your child is growing up in such a unique time, where they have constant access to an incredible wealth of information instantaneously. It is no longer a matter of if they're going to come across information you don't want them to see, it's when, even if you have a strong amount of monitoring in place. It is so much more important that you mentor your child, have those tough conversations, teach them how to use the internet in a positive way, and demonstrate to them what to do when scary or uncomfortable images/posts/etc. come their way.
It's starts with educating yourselves. A mentor is someone who is an "experienced and trusted advisor", according to the Oxford English Dictionary. You aren't going to be able to advise your children on what to do when they encounter pornography or when someone cyberbullies them if you don't even understand it. It's also so important to know what your kids are into, what apps, games, sites they like to visit. And just as crucial, know why they like to use them. Play your child's favorite game with them and learn what their favorite thing about Instagram is. Know what your kids are getting into and the dangers that exist there. Once you've educated yourself on these topics, then you can start to have conversations surrounding them that your kids will understand.
After you educate yourself, it's just as imperative that you model good digital citizenship and how to use the Internet in a healthy, positive fashion. Show your kids that you can use technology for more than just entertainment - there's a whole world of creative possibilities that can happen for your family if you tap into them. It's also important to demonstrate a healthy balance of technology. That could be a balance of how much time you spend entertaining vs. creating, but also how much time you spend in front of screen vs. hanging out with family, playing with friends, playing sports or music. Finally, having that honest, open discussion with your children about the dangers, the benefits, the possibilities both positive and negative about what can happen online. Make sure they know they can come to you if they ever see anything that makes them feel sad, scared, confused, but also when they see things that excite them and make them happy. Have that equal balance in your discussions with your kids.
There are many topics that you should discuss with your children involving internet usage and technology, but don't be overwhelmed! We have plenty of resources that can help you navigate through these new ideas. The most important thing is that you are a mentor, a leader, a guide for your children, and you are having those tough talks frequently with them. That is going to give them a far better shot for success than simply monitoring their every digital move.