Today is Safer Internet Day: a day where all digital citizens are called to unite for a better internet. To do my part in making the information superhighway better, I’ve decided to bring my kids along for the ride. As technology evolves and continues to play an ever-increasing role in our kids’ lives, I can’t think of a better day than Safer Internet Day to have a check-in conversation with my kids about their online behavior, safety, and responsibility.
Navigating life online
My boys are nine- and eleven-years-old and, like many of their peers, are connected to devices more than ever. Sure, we’ve had “the talk”—yes, that one. But in our fast-moving, digital world, where they’re engaging on social media, playing online games, and reading news online, we need to have a different kind of talk—one that teaches them the rules of the road for navigating life online. Beyond “the birds and bees,” having open, ongoing conversations about online safety and responsibility is essential to their well-being and overall safety.
When I chat with other parents about having a safety tech talk with their kids, I get the sense they find it overwhelming because they don’t know what topics to cover. Especially since we didn’t grow up with the devices our kids use today, how can we possibly know everything they see online? Parents often tell me that they’re overwhelmed because they feel pressured to buy their kids new devices their kids’ friends use.
The kids are online
As parents, how can you not feel slightly overwhelmed by the latest digital trends and keeping your kids safe online? According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 50% receive their first smartphone by age 11. And 74% of children have access to laptops and desktops, with the majority of tech access happening as early as six-years-old. There’s no doubt technology is playing a huge role in our kids’ lives.
Fortunately, there’s a free, online tool to help families talk tech safety. It’s called The Smart Talk. The National PTA and LifeLock developed it for parents of today’s digitally savvy kids—parents who want them to learn and have fun through technology while building positive habits to stay safe and be responsible online. The Smart Talk gives families an opportunity to talk about the issues that can come up as kids use smartphones, social media, and apps—while they’re still developing emotional intelligence skills.
You can have The Smart Talk as a family whenever it works for you. After developing an agreement together, you can print a copy of the agreement, hang it where you’ll see it, and revisit as needed.
I’ve had The Smart Talk with my each of my boys—they enjoyed it!—and we plan on regularly checking in on our agreements. When that happens, I’m sure they’ll teach me a new thing or two, and we’ll have to evolve our agreements accordingly.
Join me in bringing your kids along for the ride to making the internet better and safer—have The Smart Talk tonight.
Posted by Kim Allman, vice president, government affairs and corporate social responsibility