These days when we refer to having “The Talk,” we are often referring to the Cyber Talk. It seems that at quite a young age we, as parents, need to ensure that our children understand the internet and internet safety. What is proper and safe etiquette on social media and on cell phones is so important for our children to know and understand.
Unfortunately I have a ton of experience in the area of cyber talks and cyber safety. Some is good, and some has been horrible.
I have three children; my Little One who is 7, my step daughter who is 12, and my step son who is now 20.
My step son was so easy to deal with growing up. I remember getting him his first cell phone for his 12th birthday. We thought that he needed one for safety since he was extreme mountain biking through forest trails with friends. With a cell phone, we knew he could reach us if someone got hurt, or if they got lost.
We talked to my step son about cyber safety and so forth and he just seemed to know what was right and wrong from the get go. We never had any issues with my step son and the internet or phone. We never had to take his phone away and I think that he only had $2 of over usage in the entire time that he has had a cell phone.
I think that my step son spoiled us with his good behavior and we were making a mistake that our middle one, my step daughter, would be the same way.
At ten years old, my step daughter had an iPod for a number of years and she had downloaded Instagram. She was sharing pictures of herself and videos of others including my Little One through social media outlets. My step daughter was also making friends on the internet with people she did not know that were male and significantly older than her.
We had the cyber safety talk on multiple occasions with my step daughter so she knew what was right or wrong, but she still engaged in dangerous behavior.
Her social media accounts were deleted and she was provided cyber safety guidance and discussion yet again.
A couple of years passed and just as she was about to turn 12, we decided to get my step daughter a cell phone so she had it on her when walking to and from school and her friends’ houses. All her friends had cell phones and we basically caved into getting her one, without data.
Before she received the cell phone, we sat and talked about what was included in her plan, what was proper etiquette, what was safe behavior, and what was dangerous behavior. We anticipated that she had learned from the experience almost two years previous.
Her first day of having her cell phone she was calling and texting a strange boy that was a friend of someone she knew because her friends told her to. She came home and was telling us all about the texting and how the boy was not stopping texting her now. She thought it was quite funny and was proving the more she talked that she did not even see anything wrong in what she was doing.
We sat and talked about how this was not appropriate behavior and it was not to continue. We explained that if a person was not a member of her family or a direct friend of hers that she was not to provide them her phone number.
That was a big strike against her as far as we were concerned, but we moved forward keeping the line of communication open about cyber safety.
Then one day we received a friend recommendation on Facebook and the person being recommended was my step daughter. Well at 12, she is too young to open a Facebook account and she was told straight up that she was not to have any of these accounts without obtaining our approval first and with us helping set the accounts up properly and safely.
The same day I received the cell phone bill for my step daughter’s phone and a bill that was to be just over $22 was over $80. I just about flipped. So off to check the detailed billing I went. What I found was astonishing….the over usage was from countless text messages to someone on another country. That is right, my step daughter was back to making friends with people she did not know and now running up bills texting them.
So off to my step daughter’s cell phone I went to see what else was going on. One rule we always have is we need all the passwords. At least she was listening to this rule and we could access the phone.
What we discovered was that my step daughter was back on Instagram, she had signed up for Facebook and other social media accounts, but worst of all, my step daughter was talking to someone she had in her address book as “Internet Friend.” This internet friend lived in the US and she was sending international text messages at $.75 each since they were not included in her plan.
So back to talk to my step daughter we went. Of course we did research first about this Internet Friend whom we discovered was a male who lived in the US. He also had pornographic photos on his Instagram page.
My step daughter informed us that her Internet Friend was a girl her age that she met on Instagram! WRONG!
Needless to say my step daughter does not have a cell phone at this time. I struggle all the time with how to approach cyber safety as it has been such a huge problem with my step daughter.
Some people say it is because kids do not understand the reality of what can happen. In our case, I cannot understand how my step daughter cannot comprehend the importance of cyber safety. My step daughter lives doors within Amanda Todd’s house. Yes, she lives within doors of the house where Amanda Todd took her life as a result of cyber bullying. There were snowflakes hanging all over the street and my step daughters other home to help show support for the Todd family. How can my step daughter not realize how horrible things can get with the wrong behavior?
I feel so passionate about cyber safety and having multiple cyber talks because of my experiences to date. Please make sure to talk to your kids. Look into programs that can help keep your kids safe online.
I know that if my step daughter is going to ever have her cell phone back that I will be investing in one of the many programs that sends a copy of everything that happens on the child’s cell phone to the parent. I just need to go to this extreme with my step daughter because her behavior has proven that she needs to be overseen to this extent in order to ensure that she is safe.
Get Cyber Safe is hosting a live Cyber Talk for parents that is a must.
Get Cyber Safe is hosting two live, 30-45 minute, nation-wide online discussions (one in English and one in French) featuring a moderator and a panel of parenting, youth and cyber experts.
#CyberTalk is a live, online Q&A session that gives Canadian parents the opportunity to hear directly from leading experts in several fields relating to parenting and online safety.
Topics of discussion will include keeping children safe online and on social media, what controls should be in place, and cyberbullying.
Parenting kids in a digital age has changed the landscape. Today’s parents are concerned and often feel out of their depth when it comes to parenting teens tied to their cell phones and social media accounts.
How do they keep them safe online? How can I tell if my child is being cyberbullied? What new apps should I know about? How do I keep my child safe on social media? These are just some of the questions you may have concerning your child and the Internet.
See parent infographic for additional statistics on teen activity online.
English event: Wednesday, September 17th at 1:00pm EDT
French event: Wednesday, September 24th at 1:00pm EDT
Note: The conversation will last 30-45 minutes.
The CyberTalk event will take place on the Get Cyber Safe Facebook page: www.facebook.com/getcybersafe
It’s all virtual. Parents can view and participate in the events from anywhere in Canada, as long as they have an internet connection, of course.
Through a live Q&A session via Google Hangout on Get Cyber Safe’s Facebook page, parents can ask questions about their cyber safety concerns in two ways:
In advance: Parents can ask their questions on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #CyberTalk
In advance people can rsvp to the CyberTalk on the event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/813677028667145/
Bell Media wants to help parents with cyber safety and they are sponsoring a giveaway for a $50 VISA gift card, that the winner can use to purchase the safety software best-suited for their particular family. This giveaway is for residents of Canada who are over the age of 18 and where permitted by local laws to enter and win giveaways. You enter across many blogs, but may only win on a single blog. Please read the full terms and conditions found at the bottom of the entry form.
Disclosure: I am part of the Bell Media – Cyber Safety blogger program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.