Pandora’s box is opened on the tech. The horse has bolted on gaming and messaging. Whether you agree or not, I see my role now as a coach, mentor and education in the world of tech and social media rather than rule maker of rules they will most certainly break.
I have accepted a reality that the children will want to be online and engage with their friends. I can’t stop this from happening. And rather than running to catch up, I want to be running alongside. I want to start a two-way dialogue about what they see and how they interact.
At the moment I have access to everything and check fairly regularly. This, they have to accept; they are 7 and 10 years old! I do not talk about what I see unless it concerns me, respecting their privacy to a point.
It’s important for me to also say I have parental controls on to the max where I can (YouTube is slightly difficult but they browse on my account so I can see what they’re watching).
Therefore the kids cannot:
- Load an app on to their phone without my approval – we use Apple families.
- Watch Netflix or Prime without a PIN for movies or television rated PG-12 or over.
- Use their devices after 8 pm at night or before school. You can limit screen time on Apple and Kindle devices.
- Change any passwords without logging into my Apple account or me receiving a notification.
On Roblox I have enabled chat with the rule they cannot friend anyone we, as a family don’t know in person but they frequently break this rule (something I’m working on). Sadly, Roblox’s parental controls are a bit haphazard. You either enable chat and the ability to friend whoever, or you switch it all off. Which means my eldest, in particular, can’t talk to her friends outside of school. Online chat has, believe it or not, helped with her anxiety and building friendships with people she feels confident around.
Coaching works best when you set boundaries and after an instance of some online meanness with one of my girls (she was the perpetrator as well as the receiver), it was clear the kids needed guidelines to keep them safe and happy online.
We call them the Golden Rules – inspired by the school’s golden rules. I felt by tapping into that language they will understand more how these rules fit into their daily life and relationships.
I spoke to some of the parents at the school about these rules who asked to share them – so decided to pop them on BrightonMums.com for any parent to see. The list is by no means exhaustive, so if you have any rules you practice, please do share in the comments!
The Golden Rules of Internet Chat and Social Media
- If we don’t stick to the rules, chat/ account will be removed suspended, WiFi access may be suspended.
- We must not interact and/ or friend anyone we do not know in real life (mum and dad must know them too).
- We don’t share personal information about ourselves or anyone else we know including:
- Where we live; street, city
- Our real first and last names (including pets names)
- Where we go to school including showing our school uniform logos and colours
- We treat everyone with equal respect. We do not judge them e.g. their appearance, likes or dislikes.
- We are always positive and nice online.
- We don’t take images or videos of our naked bodies or other people’s.
- We will not share pictures or videos of friends who haven’t got permission from their parents to be in a picture or video.
- We will not tag friends without permission from them and their parents.
- Talk to mum or dad about anything you see online you don’t understand, that has made you feel scared, worried or upset.
- We can only use iMessage with immediate family members (grandparents, older cousins, aunties)* this has been a huge help with my eldest’s anxiety, being able to talk to extended family, feeling safe and loved.
Rules have already been broken. But this way we start a dialogue. I explain the reasons why we have the rules, without scaring them too much. BUT I have made it absolutely clear that we have no way of knowing who people really are online. And that grown-ups sometimes pretend to be children.
After thinking I was sounding like a broken record, I found a wonderfully reassuring exchange in Roblox chat with one of my girls. She had (breaking the rules) friended a stranger. This person asked for her name in the chat. My daughter just replied ‘no’ and left the chat. My sigh of relief must have measured on the Richter scale. My work is not done but it’s a small win in this very tricky parental journey.
Image: Annie Spratt via Unsplash
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