Many of our Safe and Sound Schools are already out for summer and my kids are literally counting the days until school ends here. I have just about finalized our summer trips, camps, and activities, but there is one thing that still has me panicked a little.
Yes, I said it. And I’m not the only one thinking it. Our lives are highly structured during the school year between school, sports, music, art, church, family and social obligations. What will my family do with the gift of their free time this summer?
I am picturing berry picking, swimming, reading (actual books), and playing games together. But the reality is that each one of us is likely to spend a great deal of this newfound free time with our smartphones, laptops, and gaming devices. So how do I help my family make the most of their free time, balancing time online and off? And how do I ensure that the time they spend online is safe as well as fun?
1. Develop a family contract for online and electronic use. While a safety contract is great for kids, it’s also helpful for parents. In fact, for each set of rules, parents will have to make a set of promises, too. We believe online safety is a partnership, and it works better when parents and their children are in it together.
2. Monitor online usage and contacts. It’s good practice to friend and follow your kids on social media, but don’t stalk them. You can still protect your kids from the harms of the Internet while respecting their online space.
3. Be a good digital role model. Kids learn a lot from their parents, so model the type of behaviors you’d like to see your kids pick up. Curb you own bad digital habits, know when to unplug and show your kids how to collaborate and create online.
4. Share the screen. Spend time online together learning what interests your child and talking about what you discover and want to avoid along the way.
5. Spot trolls and temptations. We are in trying times online. Bad behavior such as cyberbullying, doxing, swatting and online harassment have made headlines. Fake news stories are in the forefront and online trolls have become increasingly more popular. It is important to teach your kids how to spot these trolls and instances of fake news. Educate them on reliable news sources and have them understand that just because something is on the internet, doesn’t necessarily make it true.