Northern Kent Parent Coalition Learns about Internet Safety Amid a Virtual World
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. During COVID you learn to be flexible and to roll with whatever changes happen. Our original coalition meeting included having Chris McKenna, Protect Young Eyes CEO, present at Sparta Baptist Church in person, however due to our ever-changing environment, rise in COVID cases and desire to keep everyone safe, we pivoted to a virtual format.
The meeting was phenomenal, and the content was “just what the Dr. ordered” given the vast number of students online with virtual schooling. Chris stressed the importance of establishing a relationship with your children and open dialogue regarding internet safety, including mirroring positive internet behavior (i.e. how we use technology is how we should want our kids to use technology). It’s also beneficial to co-play with technology. Join your child as they play the xBox, Playstation or watch Youtube videos – make it a “we” activity. Conversation with your child is key. Have conversations shoulder to shoulder or back to back (i.e. child is doing a task while the parent is washing dishes) and not face to face, which would appear more intimidating.
It’s not a question of “if” your child will see something inappropriate on the computer, it’s “when.” Chris suggested that when the mistake happens show love first to your child – the first reaction should not be to get upset. Getting upset may prevent your child from coming to you if the mistake were to happen again.
Did you know that your home router could have some safeguards built into it? In addition, Chris recommends the Gryphon guardian or Gryphon tower router than can help block inappropriate material and also has a special feature where you can turn the internet off at a certain time!
There is always new information to learn when Chris presents, but one of the most profound things that always sticks out to me from the very first presentation I heard him give was how there were so many apps that are a gateway to pornography. These include many apps that you would not even consider such as Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and the bible app, to name a few. Shockingly, any app/game that has a chat feature also opens the door to predators seeking to chat with your child or worse lure them somewhere.
One question that arose during the presentation was, “How do you handle when your child wants to download an app [i.e. TicTok] because all of his friends have it, but you are not ready for your child to be on social media, but you also don’t want to be the bad guy.” Chris gave excellent advice through 4 steps:
- First, as the parent, download the app on your phone and play around with it yourself to learn more about the app including parental controls, safety and overall functionality.
- Second, allow your child to be on the app on your [parent’s] phone.
- Third, allow your child to download the app on their phone, but you [the parent] follow them on the social media account.
- Fourth, once they have shown that they are responsible – let them be on the app on their own.
Our children are exposed to so much more information and technology than we were as children. The information presented by Chris is not meant to scare you. Neither is the answer to eliminate internet all together [although at times that would be nice], as it is a necessity. The important takeaways from the Protect Young Eyes presentation is that it is important to communicate with your child and have open dialogue regarding internet safety.
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