Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cybersecurity and the Tween

I attended a parent education workshop at our middle school on cybersecurity. More than a few of you asked for the recap.

Here's the thing: I'm fairly web savvy. I work in technology. For many years Dave sold computer security software. We have firewalls and virus protection at home.

But when it comes to your kid, you forget how much you need to teach them.

The night after the talk I spent an hour tightening up the security controls on Eldest Daughter's Facebook account. Let's just say she's pretty locked down now. I also went through all her email. That was another fun three hours.

It pretty much comes down to this: own your identity and our actions. Your digital presence stays with you forever. It's like a tattoo. Sometimes it's visible and sometimes it's not. But it never goes away. A student's drunken pictures from Cancun and posted to Facebook will come back to haunt them when they interview for a summer internship at CBS News. On Facebook, reposting a link to a web site that sells term papers will have college admissions officers questioning your ethics.

One of the police officers speaking was absolutely against Facebook. He says kids don't need it and shouldn't have it. It just causes trouble. I suspect he doesn't have kids. The school guidance counselor had a more realistic approach. When your kids are 10, 11, 12 you can manage their online presence, you can teach them right from wrong, you can discuss cyber etiquette and consequences with them. Not so much with a teenager. Start these conversations early.

We have kept Eldest Daughter on a short leash when it comes to the computer. For the longest time she could not accept friends or post without discussing it with us. When we ask who she's texting, IMing with or talking to, she has to tell us. It's important to know who your child's Facebook friends are. We have been through her whole friends list together to ensure this.

Facebook has an entire Safety for Parents section. It's a good read.

The scariest part of the talk was learning that laws that protect our children from cyberbullying are still in their infancy. Lori Drew, who cyberbullied Megan Meier in Dardenne Prairie, Missouri, until she took her own life, was not prosecuted following Megan's death.

And Formspring, let's not even go there ...


Sacred Warrior said...

Excellent reminder, Leslie. This is a subject too often forgotten, or negelected, by parents. We do a tremendous amount to watch our kids' activities online, but we always find things we've missed.

Thanks again for the heads-up. It sounds like you guys are great parents! G_d bless and increase your efforts!

Squirt's mom said...

valuable information! I worry about this and I can't stand formspring. It's just an outlet for mean kids to be mean!