3 Lies Parents Tell Themselves That Can Put Their Kids at Risk

shutterstock_284183372Trying to keep up with your kids online feels a bit like patching holes in a sinking boat at times doesn’t it?

A recent Intel Security study reveals a gap in what parents perceive kids to be doing online, and what’s actually taking place in behaviors such as cyberbullying, creating aliases, and the amount of time spent online. The study, “The Realities of Cyber Parenting: What Pre-teens and Teens Are Up To Online,” examines the online behaviors and social networking habits of American pre-teens and teens ages 8 to 16 years old.

But rather than get overwhelmed or discouraged when we hear the latest stats, we can use this new information to restart reality—and refuse to let denial run the show.

Here are 3 common lies parents tell themselves and some realities to help you recalibrate your thinking.

1. I can trust my kids online. This is a favorite, bliss-painted lie parents tell themselves. While it may be true that you can trust your kids in general, the online world poses temptations and threats that even the savviest parent—and the most trustworthy teen—can’t begin to anticipate. Predators, scammers, and bullies are part of life and only amplify their tactics in the online arena. Social networks, texting, and now live streaming apps have transformed parenting priorities and establishing a new kind of trust.

Another reality check: Kids’ brains are not fully formed until they are about 21 years old. So even the most predictable kids can and will make surprising decisions.

Truth: Yes, trust your kids in general but don’t trust the Internet. Take the same precautions you would take if you let your kids hang out in a big city. Educate them. Coach them. Know their favorite digital hangouts and guide them along the way just as you would if you were teaching them how to drive.

Talk candidly and openly about relevant digital issues. Keep up on technology, slang, and trends as they affect your kids. Find common ground and communicate often. Don’t wait for your kids to tell you, stay informed about popular technology and ask your kids if they are using risky apps.shutterstock_165358493

2. Been there, done that. We’ve had the online safety talk already. This lie is one that is not only naïve, it’s dangerous. While you may have reviewed the basics of online safety, it’s not enough. Technology moves too quickly, new temptations arise, and simply put—kids forget the basics all the time (like brushing their teeth or taking out the trash)—so they need a parent’s guidance as part of everyday conversation.

Truth: Talking about online safely with kids and teens is pretty much like making them eat their vegetables. You can bet if you weren’t around they’d likely be eating Captain Crunch! Internet safety is a topic you need to visit often. Keep the conversation lighthearted but real when it comes to the potential dangers online. This game plan is a great place to start.

3. My kids understand this tech stuff better than I do—they will be fine. Many parents feel disconnected and out of touch with their digital children; so much so, they throw their hands up and simply hope for the best. But having tech skills does not equate to having tech wisdom, which is where you, parent, come in. 

Truth: Yes, your child’s online life is a lot to keep up with but making a hero’s effort to stay informed is far better than sticking your head in the sand. Your kids need you now more than ever. Be aware of your kid’s digital paths—where they go and with whom they converse. Pour into them the integrity and awareness it takes to become a strong—and savvy—digital citizen.

You are right. Technology is moving too fast. You spend hours a week keeping up with, monitoring, and guiding your kids in the digital realm. However, by staying involved, you can prepare them for making the best digital decisions as they mature in this vast digital space.

What’s your biggest challenge as a parent of a digital tween or teen? Do you believe you are in touch with your child’s online life?






Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @IntelSec_Family. (Disclosures).

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