As a parent, it is your job to make sure that your child is aware that there are no secrets online and the ramifications of this fact. Before you talk to your child about their online activity, plan what you’re going to say, know how it affects your child and have a plan of action you can follow as a family to protect them when they’re online. You and your child need to understand that the things they post online and the choices they make when they’re using the internet may affect them now and in the future.
Part of developing a solid plan for keeping your child safe while they’re online begins with explaining to them why they should be careful online. The first and most obvious reason is the presence of online predators. Some are sexual predators, others are identity thieves and others, still, are malicious teens who want to hurt your child, by changing their social status, getting even or doing something else equally inappropriate. Secondly, your children’s online activities can impact their future. A silly rant about the government, a story about a sexual experience, an email condemning someone they dislike or information about drug use or abuse can keep them from getting into college, obtaining their dream job or reaching their highest ambitions. There are no secrets online, which means if your child doesn’t want something seen or available now or in the future, it shouldn’t be posted online.
Teach your children how to protect the information they put online. Kids think adults aren’t knowledgeable regarding the internet, especially since many kids know more about technology than their parents. However, it is important that you show them how to protect their information by teaching them about secure sites, what information they should keep to themselves and what is safe to post online. For example, while it is okay to discuss current events online, putting one’s address online or posting where they will be is not generally safe. Help them to understand this and suggest activities they can do to enjoy the time they spend online without putting themselves, their future or their information at risk.
There are no secrets online because you can’t go any place online without leaving some kind of trail. Today, people can do just about anything online, whether it’s ordering a pizza, buying new shoes or chatting with friends. No matter what they do, make sure that your children don’t do anything online that they might later regret. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t say it in front of your parents or children or wouldn’t want your grandma to know about it, don’t say or do it online.
The dangers of posting sensitive or secretive information online are varied, lasting and may impact your child’s life, so talk to them about online secrets.