The Online World Is Equally Exciting & Scary. This Is How I Handle That.

Galit Breen Elementary School

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Dear Galit,

Here’s the thing—I want to keep my kids safe online, of course. But I also want to let them have fun and explore. How do you do that?

Struggling With Pragmatism

Dear Struggling,

This is such an important and valuable question—thank you so much for it! I am right there with you. I know that it’s not realistic to keep my kids off line. And not only that, but I don’t even want to keep them off line! There are so many amazing benefits to the online world. Why would we take that away from them, right?

Just a few benefits of the online world…

This is where our kids connect with each other. It’s where our artists can showcase their photography and word-smithing.

And the opportunities to get creative with music, story telling, learning, coding, and so on are breath taking, really.

Like you, I have zero desire to keep my kids away from all of this!

So even though (virtual) bubble wrap is out of the question, there’s still the issue of safety.

Because while the online world gives our kids access to a whole wide world of opportunities, it also gives that whole wide world a whole lot more access to our kids.

The Good News

After a whole lot of trial and error, I have found the solution to this.

The Bad News

But before I reveal to you what it is, I want you to know that it’s probably not what you think. Not only that, but it’s also not high tech or modern, fancy or complicated.
Hang in there with me, though!

In this article I’m going to explain to you how something very much not tech-y is absolutely the solution to this technology problem modern parents face today.

The solution is…

The solution lies in starting what I call an Ongoing Dialogue with our kids about the online world, what it encompasses, and their experiences within it.

Not very high tech, is it?

Hear me out here.

The reason that I am not pointing you toward fancy, or expensive, monitoring apps is that our kids are super savvy and can get around them. Also, what happens when your kids are on a friend’s device or playing a game at a friend’s house on a device that isn’t monitored? Will they know what to do? And, just as importantly, will they know to come talk to you about what they see and experience?

Survey says:

My research has shown that the safest and wisest online kids are the ones who have an Ongoing Dialogue with the adults in their lives about their online use.

If you are imagining the awkwardness of “The Big Talk” from your youth, after school special style, don’t worry. That’s not what I’m talking about here!

The most effective way to set up an Ongoing Dialogue is to:

  • Tell your kids openly and honestly what you’re going to be discussing.
  • Start anywhere.

Again, not very fancy, right?

Great ways to start the conversation are:

  • You can ask your kids what they’re curious about and would like to discuss.
  • You can bring an article or something you heard about on the news up for discussion.
  • You can bring up an app that they’ve asked for and ask them what they’re interested in about it.

You can, quite literally, start anywhere.

Because what you’re doing is setting the foundation for this kind of conversation and dialogue way before you ever need it so that when you do need it, the door is open and your kids know that you are their soft landing and they can come talk to you.

If your kids are starting to show an interest in the online world…

I have a detailed checklist for you to use. It’s super helpful and you can get it RIGHT HERE.

Galit Breen is the author of Kindness Wins, a simple, no-nonsense guide to teaching our kids how to be kind online; the TEDx Talk, “Raising a digital kid without having been one”; the online course Raise Your Digital Kid™; and the Facebook group The Savvy Parents Club. You can get her parents’ checklist for moms of new(ish) digital kids RIGHT HERE.

P.S. This is a 6 week series about raising digital kids.

Week 1 we discussed screen time limits and whether they’re helpful or harmful.

Next week we will be digging into how to handle those app asks, especially if our kids ask about an app that we’ve already heard bad things about. See you then!

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Galit Breen

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