The internet is a great place for learning, fun and sharing our lives. It can also be a hideout for bullies, thieves and predators. It can be hard for mature adults to navigate all the dos and don’ts of cyberspace, but how do we protect our kids while they are on online? Are the rules of the internet? It seems like a lawless place at times. But we, as responsible parents have to set up rules for the internet in our homes.
The first rule for the internet for your teens is this: everything online is permanent.
Today I will focus on what your kids can freely give to the internet. It’s a different article on what the internet can take from your kids. I often tell people, to their disbelief, that one day will will be electing presidents based on their Google searches and Facebook posts. That does happen somewhat today, think President Trump and his Twitter account.
But my prediction for the not so distant future is that candidates will be grilled for comments and searches they made as teens and young adults. Why do I feel certain this will happen? Because everything on the internet is saved by someone. Whether it’s a business like Facebook or your internet provider, your digital history can be found and it will only become easier for people to gather. The long-lasting effects of our cyber footprint can already be seen today.
The app known as Snapchat offers 150 million users a unique way to communicate visually. Snapchat is not a bad company, some people choose to use it to do bad things. The same could be said for Twitter and Facebook. Snapchat users range from the ordinary people to celebrities and brands.
What makes Snapchat so different is that the posts only last a few seconds and are “erased” after they are viewed. This promise of brevity can lure teens (and adults) into a false sense of security that their risqué, or unlawful, pictures will be obliterated from the world and no one will know what they shared.
Snapchat does not have a native save feature, but recipients can screen capture the image and save it to their device. Users are alerted that a recipient has screen caped an image but by that time the damage is done. A lurid photo can be captured and then rebroadcast to any number of viewers on a variety of social networks or worse an adult website.
In a matter of moments an intimate picture sent between a couple can be seen by thousands of people. Or a photo can be saved for years and then released a later time by a scorned former partner. This is called “revenge porn”. Also it is safe to assume that Snapchat servers are cataloging every post too.
It is our duty as parents to make sure our kids understand that what they post on Saturday night will follow them into Sunday morning and the rest of their lives.
The problem facing our kids today is that their agent of socialization is online social media. Where older people, those of us born with a 19 in our birth year, didn’t have our pocket notes and telephone conversations recorded to be seen again at an embarrassing time. Today’s youth will have their private photos, emotional texts and stupid videos on file forever. Nothing that they post will go away. Ever. What an awful burden to bear.
It is our duty as parents to make sure our kids understand that what they post on Saturday night will follow them into Sunday morning and the rest of their lives. A good rule of thumb for your kids is to never post anything you wouldn’t say out loud, in front of their parents and in front of Jesus. This is not a new problem, only a new way of communicating it. Mankind has been dealing with the power of words and images for a while. Proverbs 13:3 tells us: "Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything."
Make sure you are monitoring your teen’s social media feeds. You have to not only protect them from predators, you have to protect them from themselves. And for goodness sake, take your kids phones away at night! Bad decisions become worse in the late hours of night.
A Side Note for Parents
Parents play a role in this as well. I’m guilty of it. I post tons of funny memes and stories of my child online. I am nowhere near as bad as other parents. (So I get a pass right? No.) But these stories, photos and memes we all share will be stored somewhere on online forever. Recently a couple of vlogger parents had their children taken away because of the “antics” on YouTube.
I’m heartbroken for these children and this family. What happened to these kids will not only stay etched in their memories for life, they will live online forever. Be careful in sharing content about your toddlers today. Tomorrow they will be adults and they deserve the same anonymity that we got.
If you have an advice or encouragement related to this, please share the in the comments below. And for more information on keeping your family safe make sure you subscribe to The Secure Dad Newsletter.