It’s no secret that our kids are starting to use technology earlier and earlier. Even before they sign up for social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, many children are interacting with iPads, iPhones and computers to play online games (or even use online educational resources). But with this increased exposure comes increased risk. Research published this June found that 71% of young people are concerned about cyberbullying.
So what’s the Smart Talk? It’s an online resource that allows parents and their children to have an informed discussion about online safety. The free Smart Talk website is interactive, so it’s something kids really enjoy playing with. Children learn more interacting with something than reading a static page. The “Social Media & Respect” section is especially important in light of the statistic about teen bullying. It, unfortunately, seems to be human nature to be crueler behind a screen. As a result, we need to teach our kids how to react to bullying online and why it’s important not to instigate.
There are arguably even bigger issues than bullying online, and one is safety. Many apps these days (even Snapchat) have features that automatically share the location of the user via GPS. This is dangerous for anyone, but especially for a child or adolescent. The “Safety & Privacy” section of the Smart Talk site helps establish some ground rules that can be really helpful for the child. It’s also probably a good idea to sign up for a service that tracks identity theft of your child so that you don’t have to. A lot of parents aren’t aware that identity theft can begin as early as when the child is born, due to medical fraud. You don’t have to discuss this with your child as it can be technical. However, it’s a good idea for the parent to manage this.
The “Smart Talk” doesn’t have to be restricted to only what the free tool covers. Every parent and child has a unique relationship and set of circumstances that are worth considering when tailoring advice about safety. For example, a child in a high-crime neighborhood might be advised to stay in the house after 7 PM. This might not be necessary for a child in a lower-crime area. Or a child who plays online games will have different risk factors than one who is primarily using social media.
At the end of the day, what matters is having the talk. So make some time to sit down with your kids this week and have the #SmartTalk.