There’s a Stranger in Your House…

There’s a Stranger in Your House…

By: Tracy Madlener

There’s a Stranger in Your House…

… and he’s showing your child everything and anything, age appropriate or not, with videos and pictures that can be quite graphic.  There are conversations between child and stranger and enough information is provided by the child to the stranger and then given to the rest of the world.  Your home address?  Easily found on Google Maps and a telephone number will sometimes accompany the address with a nice little photo of your house.

 

Sounds like a parenting nightmare, but actually, we’re all awake while this is taking place in homes across the country.  The stranger?  Your computers, your smart phones, your tablets and pads that have internet connection.

 

Do you know where you kids travel online? (Image from Georgia Southern)

How adequate are you with the online technology that your children use?  Are you doing everything possible in keeping them safe?  You wouldn’t let your 10 year old travel around the world alone with a knapsack would you?  Of course not, but there are many parents that unintentionally let their children travel around the online world unaccompanied.

 

Quick!  Do you have your search engines on “safe mode” or do you know how to use your privacy settings on the social networks you engage in?  If you had to stop and think about it for more than a minute, then it’s time you take a refresher course on internet safety so that you can be alert, but most importantly, your child can be safe.

 

My first line of defense?  I talk with my kids.  I let them know that as soon as they log on, the world is at their feet.  Good and bad information can be found and not everything is as it seems.  When asked why they aren’t allowed to go online without parental controls, I tell them that I trust them, it’s the others that I don’t trust.

 

Something I do on a regular basis is check the parental controls, and when I mean I check it, I really check it.  I log on to my child’s account and search for every naughty word I can think of.  I go on websites to see if I can search from there as well.  I check links, images and video searches to ensure that I can’t see anything, because if I can, that means my child can too.

 

Kid’s are going online younger and younger each year it seems

Did you know that most search engines or really big sites such as YouTube have safe search or safe(ty) mode directly on their site?  If you scroll down to the bottom of most home pages, you’ll find safe mode (or something similar) and will easily be able to turn it on or off.  For me, I don’t really want to see everything that the internet has to offer and there are many times when I have one of my kids standing next to me as we are looking for something together and having a “surprise” show up on the screen in front of us is something that I do my best to avoid.

 

Let’s talk about one of the largest social media sites in the world shall we?… Facebook.  It’s inevitable, your child will eventually want a Facebook account.  I avoided the discussion of Facebook like the plague when my oldest asked if he could have an account.  I finally agreed and then canceled his account twice before I was comfortable enough with his privacy settings, the rules I had for him, and until I could figure out what was the safest way to go about it.  The look on his face was priceless when I cancelled his account the first time, and then the second time… well, he’s a good sport!

 

So three is a charm and I’ve learned that the safest way for my son to be on Facebook is to chat with him about etiquette and why privacy settings are so important and all the rules that go with online social media.  I’ve made sure that we are friends on Facebook and that he is the only one I keep on my close friends list to make sure that I know exactly what his activities are when he is logged in.  If you’re not a member of Facebook and your child is, basically, you’ve handed your child a knapsack with no road map and no adult supervision.  So please take heed and know that online social media is there for anyone, including the stranger in your house.

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  1. MM says:

    I wish articles like yours were more widely published for all parents to see!

    • Tracy says:

      Thanks MM! I’m just a concerned parent that is always surprised by other parents who don’t think about stuff like this. But hopefully, this will inspire those who read it to pay closer attention to what their kids are up to.

  2. Alex Zmushka says:

    Totally awesome post, Tracy! Open discussion with kids about Internet usage is a must for every parent! Off to share all around… 😉

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