Many kids spend a lot of time on computers, tablets and phones, and they might run into risqué content without realizing it. It’s important to talk to them about what they might come across online.
“Ideally you want to start having these conversations around safety, just in general, the second you put a connected device into your kids’ hands,” said Jo Langford, therapist and author.
For kids around age eight, Langford suggests giving them names of people they can count on one hand who are safe to talk to online, including close family members. Kids then know not to talk to anyone outside of that close-knit group.
When it comes to kids 13 and up, talk to them about what can happen online, including seeing overt sexual content, cyberbullying, and phishing. These things happen to many people online, so it’s key to have a conversation about how to handle them.
Reminding kids that their online content will follow them forever is also important. Hurtful or thoughtless comments or immature content can show up later in their lives.
Instead of “the talk” about sexuality and online safety, it helps to have small conversations throughout childhood. Many kids already know a lot, so the conversations aren’t as surprising or awkward for them.
“You’re not necessarily going to freak them out talking about sex,” Langford said. “It’s often the grown-ups that bring the baggage.”
Though the conversations can be awkward for parents, you can treat these talks like any others aimed to protect them, like encouraging seatbelts or safety while away from home.
“For a lot of parents, if you’re resisting talking about this stuff with your kid, it’s really about your uncomfortability,” Langford said. “If that’s the only reason that’s holding you back, you kind of have to get over it.”
Langford will be leading a webinar on December 16 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. as part of Recovery Café's free webinar series on kids and screens. There will be time for Q&A, and Langford will provide advice on what to say and how to have conversations about sexuality and technology.
“With a little bit of inspiration and information, it’s totally easy for parents to have these conversations with our kids in a really healthy way that will benefit both of us as we both get older.”
To learn more and register for the webinar, visit the Recovery Café website.