Parenting Resources to Keep Kids Safe Online

Last updated on May 4th, 2020 at 12:01 pm

In many cases, children are more adept at using technology than their parents.  Today’s children are Digital Natives, meaning that they grew up with technology and social media is a way of life for them.  They never knew a time without smartphones and social media.  For anyone over 30, their teen years didn’t involve posing for selfies, using emojis or having to worry about sexting problems.  However, as parents, we have more LIFE experience than they have and that’s what can make the difference in keeping kids safe online.

Many parents feel a sense of trepidation when it comes to what their children do online and that’s to be expected.    The concerns involve not only what can happen to their kids, but how do they help them get through the problems.  From cyberbullying to sexting and online predators, there are many real dangers to our children.  Shawn Henry, of the FBI reported that at any given time, there are an estimated 750,000 child predators online.

Fortunately, there are some great resources available to help parents with their concerns.  If you’re reading this now, then you’ve found one – Pediatric Safety!  Dr. Michele Borba, Dr. Lynne Kenney and others are here for you.  Dr. Kenney’s article on teaching kids empathy, while not specific to online issues, is spot-on about having life experiences that can help kids with problems of both offline and online matters. Kids with empathy are less likely to cause trouble online.

Below are several other resources available to you, including some free online sources and recommended reading to help parents understand more of what they can do and in some cases, use as teaching aids with their children.  They may not always listen to their parents, but when they see real stories about what has happened to their peers, it may open their eyes and make them more receptive to what their parents have to say about online safety.

Cyberbullying Research Center

This is by far, my number one, go-to source on the Internet for help when it comes to online (and even offline) bullying issues.  After all, cyberbullying is simply one more form of bullying.  It has specific attributes, such as staying anonymous, that physical bullying doesn’t have, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful or less damaging to the target.

Heavily focused on doing the research to make their case, Dr. Justin Patchin and Dr. Sameer Hinduja are outstanding in the field.  Too often, people may want to dismiss cyberbullying and its effects as being overblown or simply anecdotal.  These guys have done the research to prove the effects and they have plenty of free resources for anyone to use.

Common Sense Media

For parents looking for help on everything from what apps might cause problems to what movies are appropriate for certain ages, Common Sense Media is your best option.  The site is broken down by age, by topic and provides “ultimate guides” for many popular apps and websites.  There is a wide selection of material available in Spanish as well, which can be extremely helpful!  Like the Cyberbullying Research Center, they are heavily involved in research and can provide you with a lot of data to support their positions

Needless to say, I love this organization and everything that they do.

International Bullying Prevention Association

People who bully offline are more likely to bully online.  So, while their focus is not exclusive to cyberbullying, IBPA does provide resources to parents trying to understand what their kids are experiencing online.  Their dedication to bullying in any form, online or offline, is very hard to beat.  They have resources available for youth, family members, educators and more.

I especially like the resources dedicated to our youth.  Many victims of bullying never tell anyone, suffering in silence.  Just letting kids know that there are resources out there for them, specially designed for them gives them the opportunity to at least find some help if they don’t want to speak to anyone about their problems.

Darkness to Light

Child sexual abuse includes the sharing of intimate pictures of minors online.  Perhaps the most valuable resource they provide is working as an advocate for victims of sexual abuse within the community and at all levels of government in the U.S.  Education is great, but we need more people who will get involved in protecting our kids and Darkness to Light will do just that!

Unless you’ve experienced this for yourself, you can’t relate to how this feels.  Having known a family personally that has been through this experience, I know the kind of trauma it can bring with it.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend their training, I highly recommend it.

Shame Nation: The Global Epidemic of Online Hate

I don’t know what I can say about this book except that you should read it.  A target of online harassment herself, Sue Scheff, who I am proud to call a friend and a mentor, does an amazing job with this book.  Her storytelling teaches us how to avoid the problems that so many of us find ourselves getting into all too often.

These stories illustrate the real life repercussions that often accompany online actions.  We tend to think of cybersafety issues such as bullying and shaming as being mainly problems for kids, but Sue shows how it affects people from all walks of life and all ages.  Her examples of what I call the #OnlineMeetsOffline lesson is one that we all need to learn the easy way, not the hard way – by learning how to avoid it, rather than experiencing it for ourselves.

Cyberbullying and the Wild Wild Web

Jayne Hitchcock’s latest book is another great book that provides real-life examples of just how much is at stake when we go online.  The target by an online stalker, she knows full well how dangerous it can be – something that our Digital Natives may not fully appreciate.  While most people would agree that the Internet is largely a wide open, unmonitored and unregulated breeding ground for poor behavior, Jayne shows you quick and easy lessons to avoid problems from happening in the first place.

She uses examples of what can happen to create learning opportunities for people.  For families, the fact that the book is relatively short means that children may be less likely to be intimidated by it and actually read it.  Once they get started, they won’t want to put it down.  I was really involved in reading this book and couldn’t put it down.

Raising Humans in a Digital World: Helping Kids Build a Healthy Relationship with Technology

I love this book!  Diana Graber is a middle school teacher and a cybersafety advocate whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person.  She uses great examples of how things can go wrong and shows us how to do them the right way.  Her C.R.A.P. acronym (Currency, Reliability, Author & Purpose) is a great way to teach the value of doing good online research for school – I now use it in my own classes at Thomas Jefferson University.  Diana is very adept at relating to teenagers and parents learn how to talk to their kids about the value of good Digital Citizenship even if they aren’t up on the latest technology.

Conclusion

The approach parents take is key to helping protect our children.  A heavy-handed approach rarely works with children in general and in the case of technology/social media, it’s too easy for them to get around any restrictions parents may place on them.  The use of multiple accounts on the same platform (known as Finstas) and easy access to zombie devices make it almost impossible to prevent them from using the apps, so it’s more important to make sure that they know how to do it wisely.

I know what other parents are feeling, because I’m a father to a teenage daughter.  Our ability to teach our children life lessons based on our own experiences is more important than our ability to use technology as well as they do.

About the Author

Joe Yeager is the founder of Safety Net of PA, LLC and has been a cybersafety advocate for several years. He is also an adjunct professor at Thomas Jefferson University. It was after his own daughter came across inappropriate content online that he became involved in helping others in the area. He is certified by the US Centers for Disease Control in Bullying Prevention and is the cyberbullying advisor to Fifty Shades of Purple against Bullying. He is also the author of #DigitalParenting- A Parent's Guide to Social Media, Cyberbullying &Online Activity which was chosen as an Editor’s Pick in April 2016. Joe is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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