I loved getting to chat recently with Denise Lisi DeRosa because not only is she an expert in children's online safety and digital citizenship, she's a mom. As a parent of a tween and teen, she gets it. DeRosa has spent years helping parents, and I wanted to pass along the great advice she shared in my interview with her.
Between Us Parents (BUP): How can parents keep up with apps when they are constantly changing?
Denise Lisi DeRosa (DeRosa): It does all change so regularly, so it’s important to set the groundwork for all of them ahead of time.
You simply cannot be an expert on every new social media platform or new game or mechanism. Instead, parents need to step back and say, "Here are some overall guidelines for how I want you to be connecting online."
BUP: What do you think are the most important guidelines to set?
DeRosa: A few basic guidelines include:
1. Don’t share personal info on a public platform.
That includes not using your full name, or sharing where you live.
2. Be careful with whom you’re connecting.
Make sure what you're sharing is going to friends and not people you don’t know. Be skeptical of people who want to connect with us who we don’t know. Have a level of being aware that people present themselves in a way that’s not truthful online. Not everyone is who they say they are.
3. Present yourself as you would in social settings.
Tell kids to act online as they would if they were at the mall or a gathering with friends' parents. They should know that their audience online is similar to who their audience would be in public spaces. How would you act at a relative's wedding or park where you might run into neighbors? Apply that to your online behavior.
BUP: What are some app features that are red flags to you?
DeRosa: Some platforms are more dangerous than others, like Kik or Ask.fm.
Anonymous apps draw the worst behavior from people, as well as the worst people. If you’re someone who wants to do harm, where are you going to go? Where you do so anonymously. I prefer for my kids to stay away from that. It’s inviting problems. Problems are baked into the product.
BUP: What features make you feel a bit better about your kids using an app?
DeRosa: It's best for us to let kids know that we understand that they are communicating and interacting with friends online and to have them do so on platforms where there are safety strings, privacy settings, and ways to protect yourself. Have them man a mistake here or there, which they will, on Instagram or Snapchat.
BUP: What advice do you have for parents who are keeping tabs on their kids' online behavior?
DeRosa: Allow your kids their own social space. Just as you wouldn't tag along to every movie your kid goes to, you don't need to like and comment on everything they post, and you don't need to be friends with your kids' friends online.
Don't stalk them online, and think ahead of time abut what you're going to do if you see something you don't like. If it's safe, maybe you don't need to step in. If you see something troubling, pull your child aside and say, "Here's what made me uncomfortable and here's why."
BUP: What are your thoughts on privacy settings?
DeRosa: It's important important for parents to sit down and go through privacy settings.`
When you are checking what you kids are posting, check to see if their location is being shared and adjust those settings to make sure that if they are sharing location, they are doing so only with friends and not a wider audience.
BUP: Lots of kids use their birth dates in their user names. It's tough to find unique user names, but is that a good idea?
DeRosa: Be careful about using any identifiable information in your screen name. I wouldn't use a birthday. Instead try a favorite number, highest score in their favorite game, or jersey number, either for themselves or a favorite player.
Denise runs Cyber Sensible Consulting and offers families as well as schools and groups actionable advice on how best to use tech in live positive digital lives. She even does one-on-one consulting, noting that not only is every family different, every child is unique, too. She's able to address the challenges that parents face, and does so face-to-face, either in person or through technology so she can help parents no matter where they are located.
Prior Post: Parenting a teen can be really, really hard
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Filed under: Technology