The top three things parents do to prepare a child for the internet

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Cyber safety for kids and families on The Family Morning Show – The Fish 103.9FM

Photo of girl demonstrating how to get around the fingerprint security of her dad’s mobile phone. Photo: Mashable

The idea of preparing children for the internet may seem overwhelming to many parents, considering the risk and uncertainty associated with wireless connectivity.  Conversations with parents typically reveal two points of temptation: 1) a desire to have control over access all together because it is such a serious security breach for the child, and 2) a resignation that there is nothing we can do except hope for the best. Both points of view are understandable and represent fear-based thinking, which stifles communication and rapport essential to your child’s security on and off line.

The aim of parenting in a cyber-powered world is to become a trusted resource for your child in all matters on and off line. This is the blessing of the power crisis for the family ushered in by internet connectivity.

Even though the technology changes rapidly and our children are ahead of parents in learning about the new tools (texting and social media apps, gaming, etc.) the basics of parenting still apply.

“This is what happens when we come from the track of fear. Because there is no respect. I act as though you are not good enough or intelligent enough to see what is good or not good for you. I make the assumption that you are not strong enough to go into certain situations and take care of your self…If I take control of our whole relationship, where is your part? It doesn’t work.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

Below are the three top things parents must to do prepare children to be safe in the social network.

  • Be not afraid. Fear stifles open communication. The most important cyber safety factor law enforcement point to is open communication between the parent and child. Too many parents are not aware of what their children are doing. They are left alone without monitoring. Parents are not stewarding what is really happening in their children’s lives beyond sports and school. My faith informs me that the best way to shed fear is to have confidence in your role as a parent to impart wisdom (James 1:5) and in your child’s ability to learn from you and think for herself. And wisdom must be expressed as a passion for your child’s liberty, which will resonate for the digital native. When we explain to our children that our job as the parent is to provide protective cover, like a bodyguard, and train them to use their free will responsibly so they will not be tricked into giving up their personal freedoms in the world and in the network, children can more readily receive boundaries and consequences as love language.


  • Take time to understand the things your child is interested – in on and off line. There is a universal truth about instilling discipline necessary for learning: people don’t care about what you know until they know you actually do care. So what does “caring” look like to a digital native? Get interested in what interests your child, without judging, editing and criticizing.  Sharing interests can open the door for conversations about your beliefs and values and how they apply to pursuing a happy and successful life which is instructive for the child; other times it is just simply taking it all in and accepting your child for who he is. When children experience that it is safe to be who you are at home and to express your thoughts without being criticized, then it is possible to stay connected to what is happening in your child’s life without prying or being intrusive. You simply are in a position to really listen (through what is said and what you observe).


  • Create a “family approved” app list and house rules for using wireless devices.  Wireless devices beckon children from infancy. The desire to touch and interact with the screen is compulsive. So the sooner you establish the idea that every single app, from search engines like Yahoo and Google, to video games, texting and social media must be “family approved” the better. When children are trained to think about access to apps as a decision point that warrants scrutiny, it is one of the first lessons of self-restraint essential to keep kids secure. Impulsiveness is the enemy of discipline, so house rules must reflect the expectation that internet access is not a private thing, that parents monitor everything, and that every member of the household is expected to use good judgment.

For more about establishing house rules and rites of passage for wireless connectivity, go to: A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media.



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, 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 ( 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.