Many parents use the Internet regularly and have a good idea of what happens online. But most parents probably don’t realize that the social web is entirely different from the web they are used to using. Instead of the simple search and retrieve model which can be easily monitored or filtered, the social networking world is all about deep networks of relationships and extensive postings of very personal information. This information often gives away where someone is at a given time, what they’re doing, or the fact that a home is unoccupied (hello, burglars).
These new ways to instantly share information also enable groups of kids to “gang up” on individuals by snapping a photo or recording a video with a cell phone. That content can then be shared with hundreds of online friends before the victim even knows it. While kids may feel like they are anonymously bullying a peer because it’s being done online, they may not always realize that bullying can have similarly negative effects whether done online or face-to-face.
These growing risks require a different style of parenting. Parents cannot control where and when their kids get access to or post certain information, so we require new tools that parents before us never needed. There is a strong temptation for kids to share anything and everything online in order to get the greatest return from a social network. But we as parents need to teach our kids that the more they put online, the more materials bullies have to use against them. And for those times when kids will inevitably overshare personal information through their social networks, we need to be there to help monitor their online activities and educate both our kids and ourselves about the online risks that are out there.