We recently caught up with law enforcement professional and creator of Cyber Safety Cop, Clayton Cranford. Clayton is one of the nation’s leading law enforcement educators on social media and child safety, and he created Cyber Safety Cop to be an Internet and social media safety program. He was awarded the 2015 National Bullying Prevention Award from the School Safety Advocacy Council. In this blog post, Clayton Cranford gives us five cyber safety tips for parenting in a digital world.
- Talk with your child about online safety
The first step in creating a safe online world for children is simply having a conversation.
The first step in creating a safe online world for children is simply having a conversation. Most parents do a good job talking to their children about “saying no” to tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, but starting a conversation about cyber safety can be harder. However, parents do not need to know as much as or more about technology than their children to talk about their concerns. Be caring and direct about your online safety concerns. This is an on-going conversation that requires parents to engage with their children. Only 1 in 10 teens will voluntarily tell their parent about being a victim of cyberbullying. The on-going conversation is an invitation for the child to confide in their parent, and to ask for help and support if they are exposed to threats or inappropriate content online.
- Use parental controls on all devices
It’s important to turn on parental controls and restrictions on every Internet connected device our kids have.
It is critically important for parents to turn on parental controls and restrictions on every Internet connected device their children have. By default, these safety measures are turned off. Unfortunately, nearly every device’s parental controls work differently and are not intuitive. I wrote Parenting in the Digital World to take parents step-by-step through all the devices in their children’s lives and show them how to activate the safety settings. Parental controls will filter content such as pornographic websites, and restrict their children from downloading and installing inappropriate applications.
- Set rules and expectations
More than 80% of teens have no rules or boundaries about how they use or behave on the Internet.
The National Crime Prevention Council reported that more than 80% of teens have no rules or boundaries about how they use or behave on the Internet. I created the Internet and Mobile Device Usage Contract to help parents know what boundaries are necessary and how to present these rules to their children. I encourage parents to download this free resource and sit down with their child and go through each point on the contract. Parents should follow up each point with questions such as: “Why do you think this is a good rule to have,” or, “What could happen if you didn’t follow this rule?”
- Friend and follow
If a parent allows their child to have a social media account, like Instagram, they must be their child’s follower.
If a parent allows their child to have a social media account, like Instagram, they must be their child’s follower. When a parent is a member of their child’s social network they provide safety and accountability. After talking to thousands of children about this issue, I have a few tips for parents:
- Never comment on any of your child’s, or their friend’s, posts. A teen’s number one fear of having a parent in their network is the fear of being embarrassed.
- Choose your battles carefully. If you are overly critical about everything being discussed online, you will force your child into the shadows. They may make a second account or move to a new app you don’t know about. If you see an issue that must be addressed, do it offline and away from the eyes and ears of their friends.
- Create a balance
Be the adult you want your child to be.
In a 2007 survey, teens said they spend an average of 40 hours a week in front of screens. The American Medical Association of Pediatrics recommends less than 2 hours of non-educational screens a day. As a parent of two teen boys, I understand the conflict trying to limit screen time can cause. Use my free Screen Time Worksheet to establish screen time limits in your home. I recommend two hours of screens on a school night and three hours on the weekend. Creating tech-free zones at the dinner table is also a good idea. Remember, your children are watching you. Be the adult you want your child to be. Curb your own bad technology habits and create tech-free activities to engage your children in. Battleship anyone?