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Cyber Safety & Your Kids

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I recently saw a young teenager for her check up and we were discussing whether she had a cell phone or a computer, and if so, did she have rules for their use?  Her mother had stayed in for the entire visit (her daughter had said, “sure she can stay”) and the daughter promptly explained to me that she and her parents had discussed the rules prior to her getting a cell phone. The computer was also a “family computer” that she shared with her younger sister. It was not in their bedrooms and was in the family room at their house.   The teen told me that her parents monitored the computer use as well.

Interestingly, I had forgotten that her mother was involved in law enforcement and she informed me that she was one of the people who went out to schools to teach cyber safety.  She called her course, “cyber law 101!”

Well, not only had she done a great job with educating her own girls, but she gave me some tips too!  She stressed that one of the most important points was teaching kids about the LAW, and when online activities cross the line.  Many kids are tech savvy but they are equally naïve when it comes to how information is shared over the internet, or on any “online” device. I myself assume that once you delete something it is “gone”, but in reality that is not the case. I have had a new cell phone suddenly bring up years of deleted text messages, and cannot figure out where they came from and why they appeared even after the phone had been replaced.

So, the bottom lines goes for all of us and is a good way to explain cyber safety to our children as well. It’s called “The Front Door Rule”.  If you are writing an email or a text or posting a picture on Facebook or tweeting or whatever, and you wouldn’t be proud to see that same message or picture posted on your front door, then don’t put it on line. Short, sweet and to the point, don’t you think?

In other words, think about the postman, your neighbor, the UPS man, the Fed EX people, or anyone that might come to your door seeing a picture that you posted online. Don’t want it on your front door?  Then you certainly don’t want it to suddenly show up online somewhere.

So, while the topic of cell phone and computer use is always part of my conversation with tweens/teens during their check- ups, I am also going to discuss The Front Door Rule and hope that this will remind all of us to think a second before pushing send.

That’s your daily dose for today.  We’ll chat again tomorrow.

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