These tips come out of conversations with RCMP members, research and time spent with families who have encountered difficult online experiences. While there could always be more said on the subject the following would be the basic recommendations to consider when parenting the online world.
1. Set Clear Limits
Become aware of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on screen use by children and adolescents and determine the amount of time you will allow your child to engage online. Whenever possible, have all guardians (parents/co-parents) agree to the same amount of time to remain consistent and to limit conflict.
Discuss specific limitations clearly
- While driving, meal time, bedtime, family time, school hours
Create specific online expectations
- No visiting websites or video sharing sites without asking permission
- No downloading apps, movies, games etc. without asking permission
2. Devices in Public Spaces
Establish a family rule that devices will not be used in private settings such as a bedrooms or bathrooms.
- This protects children and adolescents from being tempted to engage in online activity that is risky or inappropriate
- Public technology engagement provides a protective layer in safeguarding against child-predator activity and attempts to engage your child
3. Monitor Devices
- Parents will know every person their child is connected with online
- Parents will have all passwords on every device, App and site
- Parents will actively monitor all devices
- Review the devices with your child to understand each APP, game and setting
- Install monitoring software that increases your awareness of online activity
4. Discuss Pornography
The average age a child has been exposed to pornography is age six. This is not because children are more interested, ready or deviant then generations past but rather it is a reflection of their exposure and access to technology. To establish healthy sexuality and sexual identity be ready to protect your child from unwanted pop-ups and sights through monitoring and family boundaries and initiate conversations that address uncomfortable and confusing encounters your child may be encountering online.
5. Teach Cyber Safety
- Create clear rules around chatting, meeting or gaming with strangers
- Ensure your child knows to not share personal information online (personal address, school, phone number )
- Instruct your child to never meet someone in person they met online alone
- Discuss what blackmail is and what to do if someone is blackmailing them
- Discuss physical boundaries and body privacy (sharing photos, videos etc.)
- Encourage your child to talk with you when they feel uncomfortable with an interaction online
6. Balance Family Time with Online Time
Establish consistent time that is not interrupted by devices. Intentionally use this time to establish a deeper relationship by communicating your desire to be with them and that you are able to discuss hard issues. This intentional time will create a space where your child will feel able to connect with you and share any danger or discomfort they have encountered online.
7. Discuss Legal Impacts
Process the legal implications of sending, receiving and forwarding images or videos of themselves or others under the age of eighteen. Be clear that this is considered child pornography (creation and distributing), is inappropriate and illegal.
Discuss cyber etiquette, including bullying, blackmail and threats. Be clear that this is illegal and could result in criminal charges and a criminal record.
Unpack what the impacts of having a criminal record could have on their life.
8. Ensure Regular Check-In’s
Regular, consistent check-in’s (weekly or bi-weekly) are important to keep your child and teen safe.
Regular check-in’s allow children to categories this as a family value. When parents fail to check in regularity children and teens tend to start viewing their online world as private and exclusive. This can lead to confusion and feelings of resentment at what appears to be suspicion or mistrust on behalf of the parent(s).
Check-in’s are important to establish a parental online presence, dissuading secret connections and decreasing opportunity for online predators.
9. Get Involved with Online Content
Whenever possible join your child’s online presence and interactions. This is a practical way to better understand how your child is engaging the online world and how the online world is engaging your child. This is important at every age, but will look different depending on their stage.
Ages 2-5 years
- Participate in all programing, sites and games they are engaging
- Discuss what they are viewing in order for them to process their experience
- Participate in the online games and social media cites
- Ensure all policies and age appropriate guidelines and laws are being followed
Ages 12 +
- Have access to your preteen/teen’s accounts
- Share or co-create an account
- Friend their account to increase awareness and transparency
- Ensure all platforms and APPs, age appropriate and follow age policies
10. Model Online Expectations
Modelling behavior is always the most effective way to train a child.
Modeling healthy online use is the most effective way to establish expectations and increases protective measures for you child. When parents are unwilling to put down their own devices their efforts to manage and teach healthy habits are essentially sabotaged by what the child observes. This contradiction in parenting increases conflict and creates tension in the parent-child relationship.