Every parent wants to make sure his or her child is as safe as possible. That’s the nature of parenthood. If you had your way, your kids would be encased in a bubble where nothing could ever hurt them, physically or emotionally. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works. Your kids are going to get hurt. Your job as a parent is to teach your kids how to be safe and responsible even when you aren’t there to protect them.
This used to be easy. Teaching your kid stranger danger, making them memorize their addresses and phone numbers, and encouraging them to stand up to peer pressure and bullies was much simpler when the world your kids encountered was limited to your neighborhood or town. Today kids are on the internet as early as toddlerhood. They encounter a whole world of strangers through screens where people can pretend to be anybody. When you were young, it would be easy to spot an adult pretending to be a child.
Today it is much more difficult. So how do you do it? How do you make sure your kids are safe?
Before we get into the mental and emotional stuff, let’s talk about physical safety. Kids are clumsy. They trip, fall, drop stuff, trip over the stuff they’ve dropped, etc. This is why it’s important to buy durable clothing, make sure they always wear their helmets when they ride their bikes, and play sports wearing the proper safety gear. It is also why you buy a tempered glass screen protector to keep their tablet and/or phone safe. These days, repairs to such devices are expensive, so cover your bases by covering your devices!
You make sure the brakes on their bikes are working properly and buy sturdy bike locks, etc. Physical injuries are also the easiest to spot. It’s hard to hide them even when your child is embarrassed about how the accident occurred.
Stranger Danger Online
Just as it is important to teach your kids about offline stranger danger, you also need to teach your kids about online stranger danger. And, like the offline variety, it is important you start teaching your kids about the online danger as early as possible. Teach your kids to be wary of people online, especially of those that they have never met in person before. Get your kids into the habit of double checking before responding to someone who says they know your child’s friend, teacher, parent, etc. Teach them to never give out any of their personal information to anybody they have never met in person and who you do not also know.
It is also important to encourage your kids to tell you whenever they do have contact with a stranger online. They need to feel comfortable telling you when someone they don’t know has tried to talk to them–especially if that person discourages them from telling you about it. Let them know they can tell you about anything they see online that seems strange or out of place.
Cyberbullying is a new monster that most of today’s parents never had to deal with as children. Social media didn’t exist when most of us were in school so we don’t have firsthand knowledge of how corrosive it can be.
The best way to keep your kids safe here is to encourage them to only friend people they know and trust. It’s also important, especially when your kids are younger, that there is no expectation of privacy when it comes to email, social media, etc. Monitor who your sons and daughters talk to as well as how they talk to them. Teach them not just to stand up to people who are bullying them but to stand up against those who encourage your kids to bully others. And, if you catch your children bullying, it is important to confront the problem directly.
By now we all know about parental controls and keeping family computers in highly trafficked spaces. Most of today’s kids, though, use phones and tablets for communication and for schoolwork. Keeping them safe even when you can’t look over their shoulder is important. Use these tips to help you get started.