Cyber Safety and Being a Super Annoying Parent

We have random phone checks in our house for the kids. App checks. Texting checks. (Only the teenager has a smart phone.) Cruise through random stuff checks. We are SUPER annoying. But our kids know that’s part of the deal. Not that they love it or don’t get mad when it happens, but still. The alternative is no phone for them.

Being as involved as I am in the “social media” world, I thought I had an idea about what’s out there. So when I saw an article listing 7 dangerous apps you should know about, I was surprised to see several apps on that list I had never heard of. I’ve never thought of myself an expert on such things, but I was reminded how fast technology changes and how important it is as a parent to stay as informed as you possibly can.

But being the annoying parent isn’t always enough. And every once in awhile, we might be the problem.

Last week, my oldest daughter sat in on a “cyber presentation” with other teens in the area. Without me going into too much detail (you know, ON THE INTERNET) the presenter gave a glimpse into what can happen when a person does not pay attention or take great care how they present themselves in the on-line world and community.

As a person who has a job of being very much in the know, the presenter had first-hand experiences with the pitfalls and dangers that teens put themselves in on a daily basis. In the first place, he had very specific information and details on ALL of the teens in the room. A lot of it could be considered benign, but there were definitely situations of scary vulnerability. In fact, he took the opportunity to call out some teens that open themselves up to a lot of the crazy the internet has to offer. (Thankfully, my child was not one of them.)

Going through the presentation, “Mr. Presenter” brought to the screen a Facebook profile of, what looked like, a typical teenage girl. He asked the group if any of them knew her. A few of them raised their hands and mentioned that they had just accepted her friend request. Mr. Presenter looked at them and said,

“That’s me. I ‘friended’ you on Facebook. I have two other bogus accounts just like this.”

Know who you’re friending, he told them.
Be careful what you ‘like’ on Facebook. Especially what pages you like, he said.
STAY AWAY FROM SNAPCHAT, he said. (More on that later, but we all know how much I hate SnapChat.)

But then he brought up something that the parents really need to hear. About a situation where a proud mama posted a picture of her kid and their…big accomplishment. In the picture, the kid was holding the “big accomplishment” which had full name, address, and other important information that would make it VERY easy to steal their identity. And then tagged the kid in the picture which can now be seen by the hundreds of friends they’re friends with and, it would seem, don’t know very well at all.

There’s a lot to know about the world wide web. It’s brilliant and wonderful. But it can also be dangerous and crazy, if we’re not careful. Or if we don’t teach our kids to be careful. 

Our random phone checks are important, but there’s so much more to know. It is imperative that, as parents, we keep ourselves informed so that we know what to expect and that we are aware of what’s going on. More importantly, that we teach our kids how to stay safe. Yes! That means that we’re all going to be super annoying! But I would rather be a giant pain in their ass than have them in a scary or dangerous situation. Besides, being a giant pain in the ass is part of the job description. They should be used to that by now.

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