February 11th is Safer Internet Day. Parents, if you could wave a magic wand, how would you change the internet to keep your kids safe online? What would you wish for?

Here are my thoughts.

Cyber safety for kids is based in love

All that I do, I do because I love my children unconditionally. The Center for Online Safety was born from this love and our desire to make our children’s world a better place. 

I want kids to experience all the beauty that technology can add to their lives. The ease, the knowledge, the connection, the laughs, the education, the efficiency and productivity. They should feel limitless!

But more than anything, I see kids struggling with their devices.

And it’s not their fault. Online safety should be the default setting for apps and devices and a child should have to actively work to find danger. Currently this is backwards, where kids stumble into horrible situations that they’re not ready to deal with.

I want you to know: Kids ARE telling us they need help. We’re just not looking where they’re telling us (online). They need training, guidance, monitoring and protection online and most adults have been slow to realize this. This is hard. But so is all of the rest of parenting!

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Parenting for online safety

It’s exhausting to parent a child intentionally. To pour love into situations. To teach and explain and negotiate. To set limits with love, using kindness AND firmness. Our kids are worth it. Yours, mine, ours. They’re all worth it.

Your child deserves to be safe online. It’s crazy that I have to say this, but it’s not the standard currently.

Parenting for online safety is similar to parenting for offline safety. We have the tools. We just need to commit to creatively using them. Limits, Boundaries, Filters, Monitoring apps, Values-base conversations. We can do this. It gets easier when parents get together in community. The Five Circles of Online Safety™ teach parents how to use these tools AND how to recover from inevitable mistakes.

Hoping for safety online is not a good parenting strategy. It will lead to disaster. It’s time to take action.

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Kids should be able to be kids longer

Kids should be able to just be kids for longer. They should be pretending and experimenting with who they want to become, making mistakes that are not documented “for forever” on social media or video.

They should not be exposed to situations they’re not ready for online. Situations and trauma like child predators, self-harm, over-the-top violence and sexual content.

What you put into your head becomes “normal” and it’s not fair to kids to expose them to adult content that they don’t know how to handle. The online content that you engage with gets normalized. The people you surround yourself with will influence who you become.

And it’s a fact: the online algorithms give you more of what you initially search for. Kids have googled a topic like cutting out of curiosity and over time have gotten sucked into cutting groups that expose them to more ideas in self-harm and normalize the idea that cutting is a way to deal with other pain.

What do I know for sure?

  • My kids chose me to be their parent, to learn from me and teach me life lessons
  • My #1 job as a parent is to keep my child safe and give them tools to handle tough situations

The Center for Online Safety will continue to inspire cyber safety improvements at at levels. The world. The United States. Corporations. Communities. Schools. Families. Individuals. My work at the Center will be done when online safety is the default setting for apps and devices and a child has to actively work to find danger.

How to keep your kids safe online

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