During the past several weeks, I've been trying to sell my new booklet Internet Safety for Homeschoolers: A Family Approach at homeschool conferences, to homeschool groups, online, and by word of mouth. The results have been somewhat discouraging. At first, I thought is was a lack of interest, then I thought it was a lack of concern. Parents would say things like
- "I let my daughter use my iPad in the car to keep her busy"
- "Everybody is on Facebook. What's the harm?"
- "My kid has a smart phone, but he just uses it to call me and his friends"
Handheld devices have become ubiquitous. Everybody has them: smart phones, iPhones, tablets, ereaders, game systems. Many kids I know own more than one device and carry at least one with them all the time. So nobody pays attention to how they are being used. Parents don't worry so much about predators, but nor do they think about the digital activities that engage their children. Most parents assume their kids know more about technology than they (the parents) do, so they don't realize their own important role in teaching their kids how to participate online.
Here's a great article published earlier this week in the Huffington Post: Beauty is only skin deep, but Instagram is to the bone. The author, Hollee Actman Becker explores how tweens are using Instagram, a photo social networking service owned by Facebook, to hold beauty contests. Becker raises important questions about parents' responsibilities that are all answered in my booklet.
The number one risk factor for kids getting into trouble online is a conflictual relationship with parents, followed by lack of parental involvement. Parents, we are our children's best protection online. Educate yourselves about what your kids are doing. Get involved. Teach your children that your family's faith and values are just as applicable online as they are offline. Don't just hand them the iPhone or tablet. Teach them what it means to be a responsible person in the digital world.
For more information about my booklet, leave a comment to this post, and I will get in touch with you.