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Be Internet Awesome – 7 Tips to Respect Your Kids in the Internet Age

Be internet awesome - Teaching parents how to show respect to their kids through their online internet behavior. Thoughts and truths on safe internet usage for parents, teachers, and kids. Words and pictures posted without thinking can hurt. These life lessons will work for boys and girls and men and women.

 

The first day of my grad school residency at Penn State was a tough one. There was big stuff of all varieties happening with Joe, our girls, and my sister at home, and I was living in a hotel room at Penn State for a whole week, meeting the strangers I would work closely with for the entire semester.

Despite the picture of me you may have formed from my witty repartee on my blog, social situations really stress me out, and I was uptight and scared about meeting new people and feeling tortured over not being able to help with the tumult in my family.

That afternoon, I posted something on Facebook to share my angst with my friends. Normally, my FB status updates are public, but I set this one to “Friends Only,” given its sensitive nature. I mentioned a couple of the things that were going on, including one that was very personal to sweet Gracie. I paused before posting it, but went ahead and posted it anyway, thinking only about how the whole situation was affecting me and knowing that my IRL and online friends would chime in and offer the comfort and support I desperately needed.

Later that evening, I thought better of the post and took it down, but the damage had been done.

A week later, my child said to me, “Mom, I asked you not to tell anybody about [the thing]. It was personal and private. Taylor told me that her mom read about it on Facebook. Why would you post my secret on Facebook?

Ouch.

Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Why did I post it on Facebook?

“I'm so sorry, sweetheart. I was only thinking of myself and not of how it would hurt you if I shared that. I will never post about you on Facebook without your permission ever again. I promise.” I responded with tears in my eyes.

“Thank you,” she whispered. The conversation may have been over, but my mom guilt continues still, weeks later.

I jeopardized my relationship with my sweet girl over what? Over being flustered at missing out? Over my own feeling of helplessness or selfish pride? It was foolish, and I can only hope my sincere apology was enough to repair the damage it caused.

Google & Safer Internet Day

Be internet awesome - Teaching parents how to show respect to their kids through their online internet behavior. Thoughts and truths on safe internet usage for parents, teachers, and kids. Words and pictures posted without thinking can hurt. These life lessons will work for boys and girls and men and women. #SaferInternetDay #BeInternetAwesome #Sponsored Every year on February 5 (that's today!), Google celebrates Safer Internet Day to remind parents, teachers, and kids about responsible internet usage and behaviors, something that I clearly can learn a bit more about, despite my decades of online activity.

The idea is that, if we begin these important conversations today, they will continue in the days, weeks, and months to come, continuing to protect our children from harmful behaviors.

Please visit Google's Be Internet Awesome website for discussion points and activities to do with your kids, including Interland, a cool game site for kids and parents, and a full (cool) Internet safety curriculum for educators.

Allie and I played the games on Interland for over an hour. They are challenging but not impossible, and there are a bunch of different games including things like shooting lasers at mirrors to prevent certain people from seeing your private updates and building uncrackable passwords to protect your secrets. Each game includes valuable online knowledge, like the importance of strong passwords and maintaining privacy but also helping others and protecting people against bullies. These games are really valuable, especially for kids without a lot of internet savvy.

You'll also find a cool origami project that goes with Interland and Family Link, Google's original app for both Android and iOS that will help you to manage your kids' screen time by setting smart limits, remotely locking their devices (can I get a YAHOO! ?), and monitoring where they are at any time. The app is available on the Google Play and Apple App Stores, so I downloaded it for my kids. I'm looking forward to being able to lock them out of their devices around 6 pm every night. {mwahahahahaha}

Score one for bedtime.

Part of Safer Internet Day includes teaching kids how to be responsible with their own and their friends' privacy. You can set a great example by modeling how to respect others online, starting with your own kids.

Check out these 7 tips that are loosely based on the Family Online Safety Institute's tips for being a good online BFF, because I am clearly not an expert in this area. I am writing these as much for myself as for anyone else.

7 Tips to Respect Your Kids in The Internet Age

  1. If you wouldn't say it out loud, in front of your kids, don't post it online. This is where I went wrong. I would never have told anyone in front of Grace that this thing happened. She would have been mortified. But yet, something made me think it was okay to share on Facebook, as if that's the place for a whispered secret among friends.
    Hint: IT'S NOT.
  2. Only post photos & videos that make your kids look good. Your kids are going to see those pictures some day. Their friends are going to see them, and the kids who dislike and bully them are going to see them. If you wouldn't hand the photo to the school bully, you shouldn't post it online.
  3. Be sensitive to their insecurities. We all have them. If your daughter doesn't like the acne on her nose, make sure you use Snapseed (which is free and excellent with no in-app purchases) or some other photo editor to smooth it out before posting her photo. Does this take away the reality of the photos? Maybe it does, but it also builds your daughter's trust in knowing you have her back and that you're looking for ways to make her look good.
  4. Ask before posting. If you have any doubts at all, ask your child if it's okay to post that thing you're thinking of posting. If she says no? DON'T DO IT. Your relationship with her IS WAY MORE IMPORTANT than your online “friends” knowing your inner thoughts.
  5. Use the delete button. Let's say you posted something that met all the above criteria, and she still doesn't like that you posted it. Respect her wishes and take it down. The delete button is there for a good reason, so use it, and then ask what it was about that post that upset her so you can avoid a repeat of the situation.
  6. Talk about YOUR social media accounts. Make sure to have open lines of communication with your kids about what you're posting and not posting and how they feel about it. Be sure to ask about other kids and their reactions to posts. And above all, if something makes your kids feel bad in any way, take it down.
  7. Talk about THEIR social media accounts. Kids are getting on social media at younger and younger ages. Grace has an Instagram that, fortunately, only has a few followers. Make sure you know what's on their accounts, even if they're marked as private. Monitor what they're posting, and talk to them about it.
  8. Be a good role model. Do the things I've listed above, and show your kids that you value their privacy above your own online reputation. It will set a precedent that they will most likely follow as they build their own media empires.

Listen, momma, you can do everything right and still upset your kids. It will happen, so be prepared for it, and make sure you have a lot of open communication so that your kids will come to you when something bugs them.

And of course, check out the Safe Internet Day website and follow Google for Education on social media (Facebook/Twitter/Instagram) for more good stuff about parenting in the internet age.

This post is sponsored by Google in conjunction with the Mom It Forward Influencer Network. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Be internet awesome - Teaching parents how to show respect to their kids through their online internet behavior. Thoughts and truths on safe internet usage for parents, teachers, and kids. Words and pictures posted without thinking can hurt. These life lessons will work for boys and girls and men and women.

 

© 2019, Tara Ziegmont. All rights reserved.

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