Who are your friends online? People you work with? Went to school with? Or are they people who you don’t really know? These are the questions you need to ask your kids. Whether they are 8 or 18, they need to be reminded of ‘who’ they are actually chatting or playing with online.
Sometimes I think the online world seems like one big scary space. Of course it’s not. The majority of people are polite and caring. They are interested in interacting for fun or to be social. Apparently, one in three marriages in the USA has come from an online meeting – so it can’t be all bad!
But there are the odd few people that really ruin the online world for the rest of us. And because of them we have to make sure our kids are safe and secure online. So, this week, you need to ask your kids.
Who are you friends with online?
How do you know them?
The thing is – to both us and our kids – the virtual world can sometimes feel safer than the real world. And it’s a false sense of security.
We sit at our desks or in our lounge room and we know where we are and who is around us – we feel comfortable. Then we go online and interact with others, with that same sense of safety. For us as adults we can usually make informed choices about who we chat with, whose friend request we will accept, or not, or when it’s ok to block someone totally.
Our kids don’t though. They are still learning about social norms and can’t always tell what’s kosher and what’s not. Just like Stranger Danger really. They need to know not to believe the story about the puppies in the van or the free ice cream ‘just around the corner’.
So have a chat this week. It will take only a few minutes. If they might be stretching the truth (!) when talking with you – sit with them an have a look at their friends list. Pretend you want to learn how to use the website, if they think that’s suspicious! But make sure you know who is your child’s life.
I think the rule for younger kids should be:
Don’t know them by sight?
Don’t know if that’s their real name or location?
Leave those friendships for when you’re old enough to understand what’s ok to chat about and what’s not and who it’s ok and safe to connect with.
So just ask your kids this week, Who are your playing with online?
You never know it might just keep them from accepting that rude friend request…
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