Actress Julianne Moore made headlines recently when she admitted stalking her kids online, arguing that “You don’t get to have privacy when you’re only 16!” While many parents applauded her for being a good digital parent, others accused her of helicopter parenting and ridiculed her attempts to shield her kids from the big, bad web.
Whether you’re a fan or not, you have to admit that this celebrity mom brings up some important questions for parents. Should you monitor your kids online If so, how, and to what extent The issue isn’t one that parents can ignore. Not only are our kids online, but they’re carrying the web around with them in their pockets, making the logistics of keeping tabs on their behavior challenging, to say the least.
Privacy Doesn’t Exist On the Internet
The truth is that even if Moore thought her child deserved privacy online, she couldn’t give it to him. One of the most convincing cases for “helicopter parenting” in the digital space is the fact that nothing is private online, and one regrettable selfie or ill-thought-out status update could easily come back to haunt kids for weeks or even years after the misstep. If you’re not stalking your kid online, you can be sure others are. Future employers, online predators, marketers, bullies — they may be a mixed group, but they’re all watching. My advice If your kid wants privacy online, tell him it doesn’t exist!
Don’t Let Your Teen Fail Online
Many parents and child-rearing experts will tell you that kids need to experience the “natural consequences” of their choices in order to truly learn from their mistakes. While this may be true when it comes to turning in school assignments or choosing to watch TV rather than practice for an upcoming sports competition, the advice doesn’t apply to the Internet. Why Because the repercussions of an online failure can be harsh and are almost always permanent. What your kid says or reveals online can’t be taken back. Sure, you can remove a post from a forum or social media network, but you can’t retrieve it from everyone who has saved or shared it before you hit “delete.” Moreover, online mistakes can lead to offline problems such as humiliation, bullying, social isolation, depression, and worse.
Teach Digital Safety
Of course, you can’t protect your child from all online dangers all of the time. Even if you installed parental control software (and I suggest you do!), you can’t keep kids from using someone else’s device or finding other ways to circumvent your efforts to monitor their online activities. That’s why education is a key component to keeping kids safe on the web. Talk to your kids about the real dangers that exist online. Instruct them not to share personal information via the Internet, and let them know that they can come to you if they ever encounter anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
If you’re like many parents today, you may just want to stick your head in the sand and ignore this whole talk about teen’s online lives. What you don’t know can’t hurt you, right Unfortunately, it’s precisely what you don’t know that could put your kid in harms way.
About Melissa Maypole
Melissa Maypole is Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for Qustodio, a parental control software that helps parents monitor children's activities from connected devices. You can find her on the front lines of the uphill battle to successfully parent four kids in a high-tech world. Readers can follow or contact Melissa on Twitter @MelissaMaypole.