Calling All Parents -- Only You Can Keep Your Kids Safe On the Internet
Calling all parents… “Hellooo, anybody out there? A new survey released Tuesday by Consumer Reports finds that as many as 7.5 million kids under the age of 13 are on Facebook—5 million under the age of ten.
Really? That means millions of kids who aren’t officially allowed on the popular social networking site are especially vulnerable to sexual predators and cyber-bullying.
All I could think after I read that shocking statistic is, how many times do we need to read headlines about a girl (or boy) committing suicide after she was bullied on the Internet before parents get it?
What the Consumer Reports survey also means that there are at least 7.5 million parents or caregivers who aren’t paying attention, or hiring people who aren’t paying attention. Let me repeat: only the parents can stop this madness. The hard truth is that parents must be parents and supervise what their children are doing.
Do you suffer from “the it-can’t-happen-to-me” disease. Guess what? It can. How many times have you heard people interviewed after a disastrous event and they said: “I just can’t believe it happened to me.” Start thinking: it will happen to me. Think about other things that happened to you. Can you believe you got that parking space right in front when you were late? It happens—all of it, good and bad.
What about the “I-can’t-control-my-own-kids” lethargy? Well, who else is going to do it? It’s your job. You made your bed, now you must lie in it. If there is no room in the kitchen for the only computer in the house—make space. Don’t let the kids go to their bedrooms with laptops—even if they have to do their homework. Parents need to find the energy to tackle this. It is their responsibility. And don’t think the “the government” should take care of this for you. They can’t. And, even if lawmakers try… they won’t be able to fix it. Now, where were we? Yes, Facebook has verification systems, but they don’t always work. If your car’s brakes don’t work, will you drive it?
Then there’s the “but-every-one-else-is-doing-it” complaint. No, they aren’t. My children and many of their friends are part of that “poor” contingent that only has access to one computer that they have to share, that has parental controls, and is in the kitchen—the room where I live. Have they been begging me for years on an almost daily basis? Yes. Do they have one? No.
Look, this isn’t easy—in fact it is extremely hard. My six-year-old is more technically advanced that i am, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do anything about it. It is my responsibility to be on top of his behavior—how else will he be able to survive when I ship him off to college at 18?
And I’ll confess, my kids are sneaky and they’re *fast.* I can walk out of the kitchen to go to the bathroom and my kids pounce. They go right to a website where they know aren’t supposed to be. Okay. It’s just amazon.com but, I promise you, if I catch them, there are repercussions.
I have witnessed my daughter the week before her birthday typing in “girl toys” into Google….I have heard about the six-year-old boy watching porn with his older 14-year old brother on his computer. These kids can wipe the “history” before you can say “history.” These are small little stories that every parent has. These are the close calls. Just like all those close calls when you are driving: on the phone, texting, changing radio stations. Those are the mini-wake-up calls. Stop or it will happen to you.
So make some rules, folks. No screens unless mom or dad is around. Need I ask: what is more important than your kid?
Jennifer Quasha is a writer and most recently the co-author of "Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Dog's Life: 101 Stories about the Ages and Stages of our Canine Companions" and "Chicken Soup of the Soul: My Cat's Life: 101 Stories about the Ages and Stages of our Feline Family Members." Check out her website at www.jenniferquasha.com.