With the holiday season upon us, the latest cell phones and tablets are sure to be at the top of most kids’ gift lists. Let’s face it: they’ll use these gifts to keep up and connect with their friends on sites like Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat.
While these devices make it easier for parents to stay connected with their children wherever they go, they can also make it easier for children and teens to be exposed to serious issues like sexting and cyberbullying. According to the i-SAFE foundation, more than 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet. Parents need to make sure they’re staying informed about what apps their children are using and set guidelines on how the devices will be used.
As parents brave the shopping crowds, there are a few important tips to keep in mind:
* Establish ground rules for phone access and use, including location and time restraints. (Example: use only in common household areas, like the kitchen.)
* Discuss what apps and in-app purchases are appropriate upon gifting the phone.
* Stay educated about sites like Instagram, Twitter and Ask.fm, where cyberbullying is becoming more commonplace.
* Make sure your kids have privacy settings enabled on all of their devices and social media sites.
* Know your resources: You don’t have to keep your kids in the Stone Age to keep them safe from dangers in the digital world.
“As a parent, I know how important it is to get your child the devices they want this holiday season,” says Paul Adkison, founder of ZABRA (www.zabra.com), a social media parenting tool that monitors the most common issues in cyberspace today.
“Even with guidelines and ground rules, there is always the possibility for your child to become involved in potentially dangerous online activity,” says Adkison. “But having candid conversations with your kids about what they do online and using a safety tool like ZABRA is a great way to find a middle ground.”
Parents can initiate the conversation about using these devices responsibly by including the Good Cyber Citizen Pledge with the gift or as a stocking stuffer. This provides parents peace of mind that their kids are committed to developing good online behavior; and the kids get what they want for the holidays.