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November 13, 2009

Facebook: Parents Have Rules to Follow Online, Too

Filed under: Facebook — techobuzz @ 11:07 am
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Liz Perle is the Editor-in-Chief of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to improving the media and entertainment lives of kids and families. The organization believes that parents should have a choice and a voice about the media their kids consume. We’ve asked Liz to share some common sense tips for parents as they navigate technology and the web with their kids.

Where do kids learn about good online behavior? From each other, perhaps. Maybe from a teacher. But parents have a big role to play in making sure their kids use the incredible technologies at their fingertips in responsible ways. For parents, that means not only talking the talk, but walking the walk.

It’s really up to parents to explain the basics of online safety and stress the importance of guarding privacy in a world where something shared with one friend online can quickly spread to a vast audience of many others. Parents should be sure their kids understand that anything and everything that people post online can be altered, copied, pasted and sent around to a gazillion friends of friends in an instant.

It’s a parent’s job to make sure kids understand that everything they do online leaves a “digital footprint” — the idea that once something is shared online, it’s really almost impossible to take it back. Just ask my son about the Halloween photo of him that he thought was so funny in 8th grade. Two years later, it’s resurfaced. Let’s just say it’s not doing much for his dating life.

But what about the parent’s side of the equation? Kids learn from their parents, not just from what their parents say but also from what they do. It turns out that parents have as much to do with their kids’ online behaviors as their kids do.

At Common Sense Media, we’re dedicated to helping kids and families get the most out the powerful digital technologies that run through the center of our lives. Some of this involves helping kids learn responsible behavior, but kids are only half the story. Parents also have some “Rules of the Road” they should be following:

Model good behavior. If you’re on your phones at dinner or during family events, why should your kids listen to you when you tell them to turn their phones off?

Pay attention. Know what your kids are doing online. For instance, talk to your kids about whether or not they’re comfortable letting you “friend” them on social networks — many will be.

Impart your values. Right and wrong extends to all areas of life, whether it’s online or through a mobile device. Cheating, lying, being cruel — they’re all non-starters, no matter where you are.

Establish limits. There’s really a right time and place for everything. Set guidelines for when it’s acceptable to use the phone, download videos and surf the web.

Encourage balance. The Internet opens doors to new worlds. Encourage your kids to explore their own offline world as well, particularly when there is no cell phone or Internet service available.

Make kids accountable. Let your kids know that having access to technology is a privilege. Let’s make sure they earn it.

Explain what’s at stake. Let them know that what might seem acceptable today can be embarrassing tomorrow.

Do your homework. Get familiar with the websites and services your kids use and the type of content they’re downloading. Armed with knowledge, you can find ways to use technology to say “yes” more often.

Don’t be techno-phobic. Don’t be afraid of technology. Learn to text, send a mobile photo, set up a Facebook profile, upload a video. Or have your kids show you how. It’s impossible to guide what you don’t understand. Not only that, but think of all the anxiety you can avoid by knowing how things work.

Lighten up, embrace their world and enjoy the possibilities together. No parents want a digital divide in their relationships with their kids. It’s up to you to join the fun and help your kids seize the potential.

Liz wants to help parents create positive experiences for their kids with the articles and topics available on Common Sense Media’s website.

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