I woke up to a text notification on my phone. It was my 8 year old daughter. Yes, my third grader has an iPhone. In fact, my kids are digital natives. They play video games, they use handheld devices, they participate in Hour of Code (well after it’s over), and being from a family of engineers and technical people, the expectation is that they too will contribute to our growing digital world. That’s why I’m constantly talking with them about the dangers that await them on the other side of the screen.
“Don’t text random numbers...it’s not safe” / “What do you mean”
“Random Numbers = anyone you aren’t 100% sure is on the other side of the phone” / “But you are you”
“How do you know it’s even me? Even if you know it’s someone you know, ask for proof. I could’ve lost my phone and someone is texting all my numbers” / “Good point”
“Seriously if you provide it, someone could use your location or other info and then kill you” (maybe a bit dramatic but she got the point)
After texting pleasantries back and forth, I FaceTimed my daughter to talk more about the proper modes of internet communication. “You must realize, that anonymity, or the idea of being nameless, gives people the courage to go out and say or do whatever they want on the internet”. She innocently asked why and so I asked her what the benefit would be. She explained that because you are not seen or maybe because you can’t get caught you can do whatever you want. Bingo. We talked about why that is dangerous and what we can do to make sure we don’t get tricked by people who are pretending to be someone else.
The experiences and dangers I faced as a kid are nothing compared to what my own kids will face. That’s why we must talk about everything. Internet usage for kids 13 and under should be closely monitored. For kids 14-17, there should be a consistent check in and reevaluation of your values, your expectations, your rules and regulations, and the dangers that await them on the other side of their screen. The more honest and open we are with our children about the dangers of the internet, the better they will be at facing the challenges that await 21st century (digital) kids.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working to make life more equitable for all people. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.