Keeping Tabs on Your Child Online

online monitorJust like any good parent, you should know what your kid is up to. Your parents tried to keep tabs on you just as their parents tried to keep tabs on them. In today’s world it isn’t quite as easy as it use to be. Our communities are vastly different than in the past. Our children’s mobility is far greater than ever, allowing them to roam farther afield than ever before and now we have a digital world in which kids can roam with unprecedented freedom.

30 years ago this kind of freedom was unheard of and 50 years ago it was virtually impossible. This is not to say kids didn’t get into trouble but it was far more difficult to do it undetected. Back in the bad old days, if you screwed up, chances are mom and dad would hear about it from everyone in the community. You were expected to behave in a manner which was ethical and respectful to yourself and your family and if you screwed up and got caught, you would pay for it in spades.

Things are a tad different today however. We have to look at our children’s place in this world much differently then in the past. Today there is an entire other world in which our children exist and it is far more difficult to control or monitor their movements and behaviors online. What is even more alarming is that what they do online, can haunt them well into their adult lives because of the permanent nature of the digital world.

What I will share in this blog post is not earth shattering or ground breaking but it will help you and your child make sure that they stay safe as possible online. Some people object to what I propose but who cares, this is my opinion and they are welcome to their own and publish it on their own blog.

Be A Social Network Friend

I mentioned this first measure in a previous post but it is well worth repeating. When your child joins a Social Network ensure that they include you in their friends list. If they object, then they don’t join, simple as that. It is like bringing friends into your home to meet you, if they don’t bring the kids to your house, it is time to be worried. If you child doesn’t want you to meet their online friends… It is time to be worried.

What you are accomplishing here are a number of things

  • You can partially monitor what your child does online, at the very least within that social network.
  • You can see what the people your child hangs out with are up to because kids tend to post every unseemly thing they do on their social networks
  • Your presence online will be a bullying deterrent both sheltering your child from being bullied and preventing your child from bullying others.
  • Your child will be more discriminating about who she allows to be her on line friend. More parent presence, the less chance of a creeper taking advantage.
  • If you are a part of your child’s online world and legal action needs to be taken, you can take it on their behalf and your child doesn’t have to look like a snitch.

I know that many people have issues with this strategy but I have absolutely no problem with doing this. What’s more, each and every teen I have ever known who have parents that take the “Be my Facebook friend ” approach, seems to have avoided the bullying and other social network torment that so many other kids seem to endure.

Create a Google Alert

This strategy is a great one and I even use it for myself so I can keep tabs on what is being said about me online.

Go to Google Alerts and create an alert for your child’s name. Each time your child’s name is found by Google, you will receive an email with a link to the site where the name appeared. Of course there are usually more than one  “Bob Smith” or “Jennifer Andrews” in this world but if your kid is in the mix, you will know about it.

This accomplishes the following things:

  • Creates a quick and easy way to monitor what is being said about your child online whether it is generated by your child or by others
  • Allows you to see what is being said outside of the Social Networks about your child because (depending on privacy settings) not everything will get searched within a social network and discovered by Google.
  • Lets you know what others with the same name as your child is up to and makes you aware of what your child might be mistakenly identified with.
  • Quickly points out too your child that absolutely NOTHING is private on line.

Google alerts are a simple, easy way to make sure that your child is not doing anything stupid online with their name attached, as well as making sure no one else is dragging their online presence through the mud.

Google Your Kids Name

If you are a parent who has not been keeping tabs on your child online and your kid is  mid to late teens, brace yourself,  you might not want to do this or perhaps you should.

Whenever I do this assignment with my kids, I am astounded what they find about themselves both good and bad and they didn’t have a clue that it was out there for all the world to see.

To do this simply Google your kids name both all on its own and in combination with other keywords such as the name of your community, your child’s school and sports associations… You should get the results specific your child. Look in both the general web search and don’t forget the image search engine. If there is anything worrisome it is frequently in the images.

This accomplishes the following.

  • Shows you what is out there with your child’s name and or face attached.
  • Lets you know who is posting information about your child without your knowledge or permission (schools will frequently do this)
  • Lets you know about all the good things that are out there about your child. One of my students had no idea there was an entire article written about them in the local news and they use it all the time now when applying for summer jobs.
  • Gives you an opportunity to do damage control if you do find something untoward out there.

I have no delusions that these three measures are fool proof or will absolutely positively prevent anything bad happening to your child online but they are things which can serve to help ensure they keep from destroying their lives or the lives of others by doing something stupid online. Some kids won’t care and will go ahead and do stupid things anyhow. Some kids will find other ways of creating an online presence that you are completely unaware of but if you child is doing these things, there are other issues at hand which are beyond the purpose of these three simple ways to monitor your child online.

Finally, the sooner you start being a presence online with your child, the easier it will be for your child to accept that you will be watching as they participate in the online world. Parachuting into your child’s online life when they are 16 will be seen as an unwarranted intrusion and vehemently opposed. Remember, your child’s online life is as much your responsibility and their real world life is.

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