Tech

How To Keep Your Kids Safe Online

| Sat Mar. 5, 2011 6:00 AM EST
Terry/Flickr

As a parent, I worry a lot about what my kid is doing in the real world, but now I find I'm having to navigate the reality of him having an "online presence," which makes me shudder even to write. Aside from watching him like a hawk, how can I teach him how to have good web etiquette, and make sure he's safe, especially when it's hard for me to keep up with technology as it is!?

~Needs e-ducation

I was browsing Facebook about a month ago, when I noticed the suggestion that I friend my 7-year-old niece. I thought, there's no way that's actually her, especially because the Facebook age limit to join is 14. But it was! She was posing as a 17-year-old, and that alone was creepy enough for me to passive-aggressively report her to Facebook, which didn't do any good, much to my chagrin. But I pressed a button! What more do you want from me?

This is, perhaps, why I shouldn't have kids. Thankfully, I talked to some folks who have, and they had far more useful knowledge to impart than, "Panic! Then mope."

Walk the Walk

Don't want your kid playing Angry Birds at the dinner table? Then don't do it yourself. The same goes for texting or checking your e-mail obsessively. As my friend Julie put it, "Kids do what we do, and not what we say -- so we try to set good examples of being people who prefer face-time to screen-time, but we usually fail. Alas."

Pay Attention

Friend your kids on social networks if they're on them. You don't have to go all Sherlock Holmes on them, but keep an eye on their activities. A friend of mine's 9-year-old daughter is on Facebook, and before I could panic about that, my friend told me how she monitors all of her daughter's activities. "She doesn't use her full name or any info, or a real profile pic. She also rarely checks it, and when she does she posts passive aggressive Farmville messages like, If you care anything about animals AT ALL, please give this panther a home!"

Read the rest of my online etiquette column at SF Weekly