Use Caution When Giving Your Kids Their First Internet-Ready Device

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If you’re a parent with teens or even pre-teens, then you have to worry about something that parents in decades prior never had to concern themselves with:  internet usage.  Even if it hasn’t happened yet, there will come a time when your child comes to you asking for a cellphone or a tablet or their own personal computer, and you have to be ready for this.

The internet can be a pretty dangerous places for kids in this age range, so it will be up to parents to remain vigilant.  A detective with the Brentwood Police Department recently dropped in to an area school to share the ways that parents can protect their children, and his insights are shared in a new report in the Contra Costa Times.

One of the most important things you can do is speak with your children about proper internet usage when you’re getting ready to let them have their own electronic device.  Set ground rules about the types of apps they’re allowed to use, who they’re allowed to talk to, and how long they’re supposed to use their devices on a daily basis.

The big thing that you should stress to them is that continued usage is contingent upon you being allowed to check their phone to monitor appropriate behavior.  Stress that you trust them but that you need to be able to see who they’re talking to, what kinds of information and photos they’re posting, and what sites they’re visiting.  Make sure that you have your children’s password so that you can access the phone if need be.

One precaution you can take to make sure you’ll know when something is amiss is to get them the same device that you yourself have, maybe even a hand-me-down.  In this way, you’ll understand how the product works and be able to monitor it better because of that.

Nowadays, it may seem like teenagers have their own language communicated via texts, so you’ll want to familiarize yourself with certain tags that could indicate inappropriate behavior.  Abbreviations like LMIRL, or Let’s Meet In Real Life, should trigger alarm bells, as should POS, or Parent Over Shoulder.

Make sure your teens understand that nothing they place online will be private.  Pictures can be disseminated easily, and providing an email or a physical address to someone they don’t know can be dangerous.  Even something as innocuous as a photo posted while away on vacation can signal to others that a house is vacant, leaving your residence open to burglary.

By taking an interest in your child’s online habits, you can help make sure your children aren’t put in danger when they take to the internet.