How cyber-safe house rules make open communication possible with your child

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Cyber Safety for Kids and Families with Joanna and Jodie on 103.9FM The Fish

Photo: Texting by Jhaymesisviphotography via Flickr

Photo: Texting by Jhaymesisviphotography via Flickr

It is no secret that open communication is essential to keeping children safe on and off-line. When parents are not aware of what is happening in their children’s world, they are at great risk of being seduced into risky communications and relationships that lead to being exploited or bullied.

See related reading: Monitoring smartphones prevents sex abuse, and why parents still don’t do it

Also, texting life can become a source of anxiety and unrest, interrupting the other important things to which children need to be giving their attention, such as studying, reading, quiet time to reflect, and relating to friends and family.

The challenge for the modern parent then is to implement house rules that facilitate meaningful conversations about how to make the technology work to benefit the individual and the family. And open communication can feel counter-intuitive to a child who has come to expect privacy with the mobile device as love language.

There is much confusion between trust and faith.

House rules as points of conversation

We need to help our children appreciate that being mindful and disciplined is the way to be a free agent and not become a slave to the device or app, or bad actors in the net.  To be secure in a cyber-powered lifestyle, our children must learn to be discerning and gain confidence in their own ability to regulate and moderate use of technology.

They must experience at home what it means to be purpose-driven in their use of technology.

In this regard, house rules should be very few and require good judgment on the part of your child. The house rules should be designed to inspire conversation about being in charge of the device or the app, as opposed to the other way around. When you engage your child in discussion about the value of a rule for the individual and the family, there can be greater understanding about how the rules benefit the child.

Provide the following frame of reference for rules: personal use of technology is a privilege, not a right, and that there is no privacy in the cyber realm. Transparency must be mandatory. Parents must have passwords to children’s on-line accounts. The distinction between private (which is to keep the world from knowing your personal information), versus secret (which tends to harbor risky situations and conduct) would be an excellent conversation with regard to the transparency rule.

Below are some examples of house rules that reinforce good habits and convey confidence in your child to learn how to be responsible users of texting and social media:

  • Establish a designated time to turn in the device at the end of the day for recharging and to disconnect from the network. This will help ensure that your child is not losing sleep to texting drama in the night.
  • Agree that whatever you text or post (especially images), you would be proud to have mom or dad read or see. No secrets.
  • Every app is discussed, reviewed and approved prior to downloading or using. This includes all free texting and social media apps as well as games, etc.
  • Establish cyber rites of passage that indicate age and level of responsibility to graduate your child to independence in the network. For more about establishing cyber rites of passage, check out Joanna’s new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for texting and social media at Banana Moments or on Amazon

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Joanna Jullien (Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.

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