In this episode, I share with you details of my other life as McAfee’s Cybermum here in Australia and my top tips for how to ramp up your digital parenting game.
For the last 10 years, I have been McAfee’s Cybermum here in Australia where my main job is to help parents need to understand the online world. So, here are my top tips that will help you master your digital parenting game:
1. Commit To Being A Part of 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!
Many parents think they are online and think they understand how it all works (they buy their groceries online, read some news, maybe a little Facebook) but it requires more than that. You have to get your head into your child’s online world so you can really understand this part of their lives.
So join social media and learn how it works. Set up Facebook, Instagram, Tic Tok Skype, or Twitter account – whatever your child uses and engage with them online. If they are a gamer, they may also be on a platform called Discord – check that out too.
And the more you understand their world. the more likely they will be to come to you if their experience a problem.
2. Keeping Talking…
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.
If possible, start early and weave cyber safety messages into your family dialogue. So it is our job to communicate with them about the pitfalls.
Research also shows that the despite what parents think, some kids are reluctant to tell their parents if they are either witnessing or experiencing bullying online for fear they will lose internet access. So never threaten total disconnection because it will mean you’ll never hear anything!
3. Consider a Family Technology Contract
I love the idea of outlining exactly what your expectations of your children are online and how they use digital devices. And a family digital contract is such a great way of providing clarity for everyone.
You can include things like 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 isn’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. I also recommend including mandatory placement of devices on a family charging zone in a public family space such as the kitchen.
Check out the family technology agreement from our eSafety Commissioner here in Australia if you are looking for a good place to start.
4. Education, Education, Education
As parents, our job is to educate our kids – and that includes the online world too. 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.
Constantly weave into conversations the importance of manners and respect online. Unfortunately, the minute fingers hit the keyboard manners seem to evaporate and this is not just children. So focus back on the Golden Rule – Do Unto Others as you would have them do unto you.
Digital reputation is everything- constantly remind your kids that they are on display online and that their online actions form their reputations. 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.
CyberBullying – firstly, 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.
5. Get Technology Working For You
There are so many great apps and software programs available to make life as a digital parent that bit easier. And personally, I am a fan. However, parenting controls are not the silver bullet to being an effective digital parent – but they can be a very effective strategy if they are used in conjunction with proactive cyberparenting.
But parental control software can help develop healthy habits in your kids, particularly if you start using it when your kids are young. It can turn off the router off at a certain time every night, block inappropriate content and alert you to what your kids are sharing online!
And don’t forget security software too. Security software protects you against viruses, spyware, hackers, accidentally clicking on dodgy links. It will also give you comfort knowing that the sites you are visiting are safe!
It’s no secret I’m a fan of both McAfee’s security and parental control software. You can find the details here.
You can listen to the full episode here or on your favourite podcast app:
See you next time.