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Monitoring Our Kids Digital Footprint Online

As a parent do you worry about all of the information that is being collected about your children on the web? I’d love your advice. What do you do to monitor or reduced it? I recently came across a website called Just Delete Me. I’m not promoting the site, but did find it interesting. It purports to help us clean up the digital breadcrumbs we and our kiddos blissfully scatter around the web.

Your Kids Digital FootprintOne of the things that caught me a bit off guard is just how many different social media sites there are. It’s not just Facebook and Twitter any more. Do you know which sites and apps your children use? The number is growing, and some target younger people. I’m willing to wager there are many you have never even heard of. Here are links to just a few you likely know, and some you don’t.

Social Media Sites/Apps: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Reddit, Tumblr, Vine , Kik, Snapchat, Wanelo, 4Chan, Pheed. Do your kids use these? Do you know the risks of each? There are several sites I use regularly, like Instagram, that have a growing darker side. And newer sites like Snapchat and Vine may be worse still. Heard of them?

Do you know what Social Media sites and apps your children use? If so, have you spoken to them about the risks they pose, and how to protect themselves? Do you monitor their online activity… their digital footprint?

I wish that there were some simple silver bullets to help you protect your children, but it’s going to take hard work on our part to keep current and understand the risk. And more important than anything, it’s going to take open, honest and sometimes uncomfortable conversation with our kids. We can’t simply ignore or not address this issue.

A large number of kids have smartphones these days, so access (if we allow them to have it) to social media is 24/7. What do you do to monitor and manage your children’s internet usage? When our daughter has a computer (in the future… she’s just 5 now) it will be placed in a public area. And I plan to take her cellphone away each night at bedtime.

I also plan to “friend” her on any social media network she uses while she’s young, with pre-agreed boundaries. That, however, is the reason most kids move to other sites and apps we don’t know about. Seems over-protective? And will probably not make me very popular with my daughter… but I’m not her friend. I’m her dad. Where do you draw the line?

I’d love your advice. What can we do to protect our kids, without being overly controlling? They need to become self-sufficient, and need to be given trust and some freedom to do so? Please leave a comment with your advice, thoughts, fears. If we parents all share what we learn about raising children in this brave new world, we can help each other and our kids.

What do you recommend? Please leave a comment!

4 comments

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  1. Mary Kathryn Johnson (@SayBumpandTweet)

    Great article, Michael!
    I look at social media just as I look at potential friends for my sons. If the behaviors of potential friends are not what fit our family’s values, I help my sons determine whether or not they want that person to influence their lives.

    It’s not just the individual social media site or post that we need to consider, it’s the behavior our children display around the devices they use to access the sites.

    My 15 yo recently got in the habit of having both his iPhone 4s and his laptop on and ready while he did his homework. Not surprisingly, his homework took twice as long to complete with all the interruptions that he actually considered “multitasking.” The new rule, do your homework, and I’ll keep your phone and laptop safe until you are done. If I need to, I’ll also check your homework like I did when you were in middle school to ensure your focus was where it needed to be before I release your devices to your control again.

    His grades match his abilities, so I think it is working so far.

    Watch for the “OCD” behaviors that many children, and most adults display around their devices, more than the individual sites, and the digital footprint will automatically be minimized.

    Thanks again Michael! Happy Tuesday!

    1. Michael Schmid

      My 15 yo recently got in the habit of having both his iPhone 4s and his laptop on and ready while he did his homework. Not surprisingly, his homework took twice as long to complete with all the interruptions that he actually considered “multitasking.” The new rule, do your homework, and I’ll keep your phone and laptop safe until you are done. If I need to, I’ll also check your homework like I did when you were in middle school to ensure your focus was where it needed to be before I release your devices to your control again.

      ~Mary Kathryn Johnson

      Thanks so much for the great advice. I like the way you suggest we look at it. Less focus on the sites or apps (which change all the time anyway), and more focus on our kids behavior in relation to those sites and the devices they use to access them. I like the homework rule. Will likely adopt that (with obvious adjustments for those time when access to the internet may be appropriate to an assignment), as well as my no phone in room after bedtime… and computer/laptop in public space only at all times.

  2. Jerry

    While on-line computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for children, expanding their horizons and exposing them to different cultures and ways of life, they can be exposed to dangers as they hit the road exploring the information highway. That’s why it’s important to be aware of what your kids see and hear on the Internet, who they meet, and what they share about themselves online. Just like any safety issue, it’s wise to talk with your kids about your concerns, take advantage of resources to protect them, and keep a close eye on their activities.

    1. Michael Schmid

      I couldn’t agree more, Jerry. Well said! Thanks.

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