Become a Cyber-Parent, A Creative Way for Parents to do Cyber-Duty on Social Networking Sites

In last month’s news, Dr. Renee encouraged parents to begin doing cyber-duty and to take the cyber-pledge.  This month, she discusses a creative way for parents to do cyber-duty on social networking sites.

Of concern to many parents is that their children might follow the ground rules spelled out in their cyber-pledge, while at home, but may not do so when they have access to electronic devices outside of their parents’ immediate sight.  The good news is that social networking sites can be used to enhance a parent’s ability to do their “cyber-duty.” Here is a list of how to do this:

1)    Parents should have a profile on the social networking sites that their kids are on.  Have fun with it.  Let your kids help you make your profile.
2)    Parents and children should be “friends” on sites.  Most of the time, kids will not be embarrassed by this, as they typically have so many friends on social networking sites that you as the parent won’t be recognized.
3)    Engage as many parents as you know to join a network of cyber-parents who have taken the pledge.  Engage parents in your neighborhood, school community, churches, etc.  Meet, as parents who have taken the pledge, and discuss ground rules for alerting each other when inappropriateness has occurred on the social networking sites.

Some ground rules may be:

1)    All parents must have a profile on the social networking site
2)    All parents must be friends of their own children and friends of as many of their friends’ children as possible
3)    All parents in your group should friend each other on the social networking sites
4)    All parents should surf the site at least once a day
5)    Parents should devise ground rules as a group so that there are established rules governing appropriate behavior on social networking sites, that all group parents agree on AND have agreed to report to each other if one of the children disregards these rules.
6)    Parents are responsible for alerting other parents (in a predetermined mode of communication) if their child has broken the ground rules
7)    Parents must agree to disclose sensitive information about another parent’s child only to that specific parent, in a compassionate way

Although the above tips may seem like a lot of work, it is important for parents to remember that there is strength in numbers.  For example, when many parents were children, their neighborhoods were relatively safe because the adults in the community watched over all of the children, in the neighborhood, not just their own.  In fact, children were often disciplined by their neighbors.  Such community involvement helped keep children safe when they were away from home.  By creating cyber-communities amongst parents and children, parents can begin to make cyberspace a safer place for kids to hang out.  The more parents, children, and friends that are connected on social networking sites, the easier it becomes for parents to do their “cyber-duty.”

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