Many parents are asking themselves "How am I to prepare my kids to face sexting, pornography, hacking, identity theft, and other challenges in Today's Digital World? I don't even know how to respond to these instances myself! What I am to do?" Since I have been specially trained and prepared with tools, ideas and methods to do this in my own home, my desire is to share them with parents like you. These are the simple practices we can do to prepare our kids to be prepared to face the digital challenges of their day confident and strong.
"You can't fight what you can't see. You can't prepare for what you don't see coming." Chelsea Brown
Someone who becomes hearing or vision impaired after living for years with these abilities, cannot navigate in their new world without help. They need someone teaching them how to recognize the changes going on in their new world. They have guides, interpreters and dedicated groups of people to assist them with challenges they will face in their lives. We want to be able to do these same things for our kids. We cannot do that if we don't know what the risks are, what dangers our child will be most vulnerable to, and where these things can happen.
Many of us are aware of how prominent sexting and pornography are among today's children. But do we know of the other risks our children face like privacy violation, identity theft, hacking, or cyberbullying? Do we know how and where these things happen? Do we know how to check and monitor for these kinds of things? If we don't then we are not prepared to help our kids fight these battles. We won't even be able to arm them with the tools they will need to avoid or fight these battles on their own if we don't know how to do this. They will learn what to do through the school of hard knocks and no one wants that. It is essential for us to learn these kind of things if we are to prepare our kids for the kinds of risks they will face. You can learn all about the risks and partial solutions to these instances by exploring the resources found on this website.
An essential part of preparing our kids is helping them remember what to do in times of crisis, weakness or happenstance. Something I developed to teach my kids what to do with the risks they face was DEPART and SCREEN IT. However, I recently learned of a better and more effective way from my friend Andrea, at Better Screen Time. Instead of just teaching your kids an acronym, have them come up with their own. Andrea, a former teacher, taught me that kids learn best when they come up with their own way to remember things.
I want to encourage you to take that a step further. Don't just help your kids come up with an acronym that they remember and recite in times of questions. Teach them a warrior cry.
A Warrior Cry is an acronym with a plan for individuals to know exactly what to do and how to respond to EVERY situation they come across
It's true that we are better able to remember acronyms and warrior cries when we create them together. But think about what makes a warrior successful in his battles he faces. What is it that makes all the difference to a person on or off the battle field?
Kids are taught and know what they shouldn't do online, but they are not taught to recognize and respond to the risks they face. What do I mean? Years ago as a lifeguard trainer, one of the basic concepts we would teach our guards was to mentally, physically, and emotionally prepare for an emergency situation to happen in a second. We would practice random drills of people drowning in different parts and circumstances of the pool we were guarding. We held special trainings to practice our TEAM response and executing each of our assignments where we were on the property. We did this so if and when the real emergencies happened we were prepared.
Parents, we must focus on doing this in our own home. Does that mean you practice downloading a virus on the computer and risk ruining it? No. I definitely don't recommend that. I do suggest you walk in on your child one day and say, "(Warrior Cry!) It's a drill. _________ Scenario just happened on your computer. Tell me how you're going to respond?" If our kids don't practice recognizing a virus, responding to a request for explicit material or what to do when someone shows them questionable content, how will they know what to do? Both School Institutions and Parents are failing to give our kids the practice of the skills they need to face the digital challenges of today head on, with confidence. Doing these kinds of exercises as a lifeguard taught everyone to know exactly what they needed to do in an emergency. Our kids are no different. They need to know how to do these potentially life-saving skills.
As a lifeguard manager and trainer, another part of my job was to know where my guards struggled and help them become better, stronger and prepared to fight their weaknesses. Now as a parent, I apply those same skills to my kids. For example, I have a child who loves to watch TV 24/7. He would steal the remotes, phones, computers, etc. to watch any shows he could. So, knowing his weaknesses and smarts, I used that to my advantage to help him. I controlled the environment and put virtual security measures in place to stop him even if he succeeded in getting a device (7 layers of security).
You, as the parent, possess those same skills and abilities to. We can all fall short if we don't set up safety nets to catch our kids when they stumble. They will stumble, make mistakes, and struggle in the world from time to time. That is just part of the existence and the school of hard knocks we are enrolled in. We can minimize the potential risk of missing when they stumble by putting layers of security measures in place to catch their digital mistakes. It's about more than just monitoring what they do, putting parental controls on every device, or talking to your kids about what risks they face. In the security world, we arm facilities with protection physically, virtually and educational tools. You can learn more about how to do this in Keeping Kids Safe Online Course.
Something I have learned in the last 10 years of professional experience is that we cannot do it alone. Even in my small consulting business, I must enlist the help or opinion of those more practiced, skilled or experienced than myself. Our kids and ourselves will both need a team of people behind us helping, assisting and working together to keep us safe. We need a "Trust Circle", as Mindy McKnight of Cute Girls Hairstyles says in her book Viral Parenting, on both ends.
Parents need a team that shares ideas, informs and teaches various parenting ways that work for them. Kids need a team behind them that will help them make good choices, stand together when life gets hard, and rise above the filth and grime that today's world seeks to throw at them. If you're interested in forming this team in your area, join our online community here to get ideas, find like-minded parents, and introduce your kids to other families who are on their side.
I know that doing all the things above seems easy and practical, but let me share with you the reason why I have a career. We are so distracted and misinformed with "putting an app" on this device or "buying this product" will protect our kids for us. The reason companies hire security personnel to watch monitors is because everything in technology fails at some point in time. The very thing you've been trying to block, all that internet garbage, is the very institution that made security and privacy laws what they are today. We should stop focusing on giving our kids a "college advantage" and start setting them up with the real life skills they will need to survive and thrive in this digital age. Our kids need to know how to recover from identity theft before and after it happens; how to "bury" a stupid post or private message made on the internet years ago; how to retract a false accusation or statement we made that was believed to be 100% factual. Our kids need to know how to fix and rise above what cannot be undone or taken away online.
When all is said and done, there is nothing more important than making sure your child feels safe. Why? When we feel threatened, ignored, insecure or ridiculed we will never share our deepest, darkest fears and challenges with anyone. How can we as parents help our children if they don't feel safe with us? How can our kids trust us if we violate it?
The culture and environment we create in our homes is the most important thing we can do. We can do this by fortifying our current home environments. Do we struggle with being able to communicate with each other? Then find a way to practice and get better at it. Do we struggle with expressing love and affection to our children?
I know that this seems overwhelming and I want to let you in on a secret. We will all make mistakes raising our kids. I've made mistakes, and so have others. Our kids will make mistakes too. The goal is to keep going. Keep doing what really matters to our kids. Press On!! The goal is to raise our kids to become adults and be able to stand on their own. YOU CAN DO THIS!! And I am always here to help you find a better way.