Talking With Your Kids About Uncomfortable Internet Issues
You are here:
Internet Family Fun Home > Internet Safety > Talking With Your Kids About Uncomfortable Internet Issues
Why Uncomfortable Internet Issues Are Hard To Talk About and What You Should Talk About
Sometimes it seems that it would be easier to face a firing squad than to sit down and talk with your kids about uncomfortable topics such as pornography, predators and abductions. They want to go online and need to be armed with knowledge but you want to protect their innocence. In a perfect world, your kids could go online and not worry about the dangers but the reality is, there are dangers they need to know about. Let's look at what you should be talking about with them and why the lines of communications often fail with your kids.
Why It Is Important To Talk Openly and Honestly and Often
If your child (male or female) is going online by themselves without filtering software, it is a very strong chance that they will be exposed to pornography and be solicited for sex (Youth Internet Safety Survey Results). Scary? Absolutely! Now imagine not knowing what that is, how to react, and being afraid to tell your parents. I know when we were kids, we exposed to it in the back seats of the school bus or at the park with friends but there were grown-ups in the vicinity. I wouldn't have told my parents what the conversation was about and you probably didn't either. You and I both, didn't want to get in trouble.
Those conversations now take place online over Instant Messengers and chat rooms. The only difference is the person that your child is talking to, is not Jimmy or Suzy from across the street, it could be anybody. In the online world there are predators searching for your child and your innocent child is no match against these deviants. Even if your child is street-wise and knows about these subjects they need to know that they can come to you if they get in trouble. It is time to talk to your kids. Quite frankly, open and honest conversation needs to start before your kids go online, but if they already are, there is no time like the present.
With each conversation you and your children have, the conversation is easier and less uncomfortable. Talk with your kids often and the conversation doesn't have to be long.
Why Kids Won't Come To You When There Is A Problem
Not too many kids come running up to Mom or Dad when they get home from school anxiously announcing they got in trouble today. The same thing happens while they are online. One of the things that predators rely on is that kids won't come to you. Here are some of the reasons that they don't come to you.
- Kids fear that they will get in trouble.
- When it comes to a problem online, they are afraid they will lose computer privileges.
- They may have been doing something wrong and they don't want you to know about it.
- They are embarrassed at what happened.
- They don't want to disappoint you.
- They think you will over-react to the situation.
- If they tell you one part, they will have to tell you everything.
- They feel they can handle anything and are invincible (it won't happen to me).
- If a predator has already been in regular contact with your child the predator may be threatening them that they will come to you and tell you everything your son or daughter has been doing wrong.
- If a predator has already been in regular contact with your child the predator may have already convinced your child that you can not be trusted.
Starting the Conversation
They say timing is everything. These conversations are always tough to start but if you do it as natural as possible it won't be that tough. You may want to schedule some time for a family meeting and talk. If you have more than one child you may want to talk to them separately so you can relay age-appropriate information to each child. My favorite place for uncomfortable conversation is the car. It offers privacy, no interruptions, and with the really uncomfortable parts you don't have to look them in the eye. Of course you need to be careful driving and it isn't appropriate to have the conversation in heavy traffic where you need 100% undivided attention to the road.
To bring the topic up here are some lead-ins:
- A related topic on a TV show or movie.
- After you leave the grocery store, you can talk about something you saw in the tabloid headline while waiting on line.
- Ask them straight out if they have ever run across pornography online.
- Ask if they have a blog or use instant messaging.
Most of all, don't forget to talk with your kids, not to your kids. Conversation is a two-way street with back and forth. Ask, "what do you think?" or "how do you feel about it?". If they are going to feel comfortable coming to in the future, they need to know that it will be a conversation not a lecture (not that lectures don't have a time and a place).
Let them know why you care - that you don't want to see them hurt.
Don't be afraid to say that you don't know. With my kids, I am not afraid to let them know that I don't know everything but I am always happy to try and figure it out together.
Be honest. If a topic is uncomfortable for you to discuss with your children, say that you feel uncomfortable. Tell them it is OK for them to feel uncomfortable about talking about certain things too. But also explain that these things need to be talked about.
Talk often, so they that these conversations get easier each time.
Online Dangers That Need To Be Discussed
Predators and Abductions
Predators and possible abductions need to be discussed. No one wants to scare their children and tell them that there are people that want to do them harm, but there are bad people out there and your kids need to know. Your children need to know that the person that they are talking may or may not be a predator. Because they don't know who they are talking to they need to know that they should never give out personal information (even if they think they know who they are talking to). Personal information includes their real name and location. As a guide to know what they can and cannot say, agree to the rules prior to going online.
They also need to know that they may see pornographic images. This is especially tough because you need to explain what pornography is and why it is on the Internet. Use age-appropriate information to describe what pornography is.
The Use of Foul Language and Threats
Many children feel that they can do what ever they want online because they are anonymous. They need to understand that they can be found if their actions are serious. The IP number that is assigned to them when they log onto your ISP is logged at every Web site they visit and can be traced back to them by a Web site owner contacting your ISP.
Harassment by Other Users and Peers Online
The same as the playground, there are people that will harass and threaten other kids. Remind them that these things exist and they should come to you for help, even if they did something wrong. Tell them that asking for help doesn't make them weak or a tattle-tale, it actually shows that they are smart because they know how to get help. (More about Cyberbullying)
Visiting Sites That Are Not Reputable
The computer that they are using is a big investment and costs a lot of money to replace. They need to understand that they have to be careful when visiting sites to make sure they do not download spyware and viruses.
Chat, Instant Messenger(IM), and Blogging Dangers
Chat, instant messaging, and blogging are very popular with kids. They do exposure your child to other other people and it is very easy for your child to slip personal information that they shouldn't be.
Following User Agreements and the Law
You should remind your children that they are expected to follow the rules. They shouldn't bid at Ebay, download illegal items, plagiarize, etc. Again, IPs are logged and officials can find them and you and prosecute. (More: Parent Responsible for Children's Actions)
Talking with your kids about tough subjects can be difficult but these conversations are necessary. Just remember that every time you have a conversation, the next one will be easier for both of you. Most of all remember that your kids need to know that they can come to you when there is a problem, so the easier the conversation is, the more likely they will come to you.