Parents who have non-adult children with tech devices that can access the Internet: This one’s for you.
My 12-Year-Old Was Blackmailed for Nude Photos Via Kik Messenger (published July 29, 2014)
*** Full Disclosure: I am not a parent but there are children in my life that I care deeply about. ***
Also, this is not an attack on the mother of the girl in the article. Rather, this is a “we better wake up and do something” moment.
The reality is that children *will* find a way around any “controls” that you put in place… so, in my mind, the best plan is to:
1. Educate them on why those controls are necessary. Make sure they truly understand that it’s not because you want to be a “helicopter parent”; rather, it’s because a whole life can be ruined (or worse, ended) by one little mistake.
2. If feasible: Follow them on each and every single social network they use. Don’t stalk them; simply give yourself the ability to monitor from afar without needing to take their devices (so you can more easily figure out if confiscation is necessary later).
3. If doing #2 above: Keep an eye on their “friends” lists. If a non-family and grown man (or woman) shows up in your child’s list then all kinds of alarms should start going off in your head.
4. Engage them regularly about social media and let them talk to you about it. Talk about the dangers of a life exposed online and how once it’s out there you can’t get it back.
5. Have them show you what’s new in their apps on a regular basis… At least weekly.
6. Regularly “borrow” their device(s) to gauge their reaction when taken.
7. Make their Internet devices the first thing you take when punishment is necessary.
8. When you first give them their device, set it up on your account as a child’s device so that you can keep an eye on what they’re downloading in the app store.
There’s no question that you cannot protect children from everything. They would never grow up if we did that, anyway. However, we can teach them how to be careful about never going into dark and strange places.