10 Secret Weapons for More Confident Digital Parenting

10 secret weaponsI love writing about Internet Safety because I love kids and empowering families to navigate—and prevail—in today’s digital culture. But what I really love is when a parent pulls me aside in the grocery store or at a school event and passionately (and sometimes tearfully) shares about an online issue going on in their family. These moments affirm a very special camaraderie between parents who, frankly, are pioneers together in parenting digital natives.

Many times we end up sharing equally dramatic war stories because—after all—we’re trying to tame the same dragons. And, we also get to share our wins.

But eventually, as the conversation closes, one question comes up without fail:

“How am I supposed to keep up with all of this?”

There’s a heavy pause birthed by a mutual mix of empathy and uncertainty.

Then I answer: “One step at a time. It starts with getting intentional with technology and connecting to your child each day. Before you know it, you will realize you are doing pretty good at this.”

We exchange emails and part ways with my promise to send a list of my “secret weapons” that have helped me grow in my tech parenting. Here’s that list for you. I hope you will add your own resources in the comment section!

10 Secret Weapons for Digital Parenting 

  1. Common Sense Media.You can get a crash course in digital parenting right here. This is probably the most informative site online for parents who want to stay up on their kids’ media, technology and entertainment. You will find reviews on movies, apps, video games, websites, and books, as well as a harvest of helpful articles on everything family/tech/media focused.
  2. Feedly.If you are overwhelmed with bookmarking all the great articles you come across, simply curate your favorite blogs and online news sources with the Feedly app (for desktop and mobile). That way you can read a news “feed” daily much like you would a newspaper—and get all your family safety/parenting news in one place. This will help you feel connected and aware. My personal Feedly stream includes tech and family experts such as McAfee Blog Central (of course), Mashable, Huffington Post Screen Sense, Digital Trends, Social times, Tech Crunch, Wired, and the Inside Facebook Blog, among others.
  3. A Blogger List. There great bloggers (who you can also put in your Feedly) who are passionate about digital safety, technology, and the many issues evolving around both. It would be impossible to list them all but a few of my favorites include: Sue Scheff, Perry Aftab, Mary Kay Hoal, Larry Magid, Robert Siciliano, and Anne Collier, among others. Blogs are great for personal connection. You can leave a comment or question on a bloggers’ post and likely get an answer to your parenting or safety question in a day or two!Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 7.09.45 PM
  4. Offender Locator App. The Offender Locator App allows you to view sex offenders’ in your area (zip code). The app displays names, addresses, and arrest records via your phone. Just type in your address and the offenders living in your area will come up (yes, it’s both informative and alarming). I go through this list and photos with my kids a few times a year, just to be aware.
  5. Google Alerts. In the “alerts” section of your Google homepage you can put an alert (email notification) for any time a word is mentioned online. Put an alert on your name, your child’s name and any other content you’d like delivered to your email inbox. Get an alert for phrases like “new mobile apps,” “social media trends,” “teens online,” and more.
  6. A Platform for Good. To get inspired about all the good (and there’s a lot) happening online, go to Platform for Good (PFG). PFG is a project of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) designed to help parents, teachers, and teens to connect, share, and do good online.
  7. StopBullying.Gov. This is a great site for understanding and reporting cyberbullying. Every parent should understand the dynamics of bullying and know where to turn if their child is at risk.
  8. The Help Section. It’s easy to overlook, but the HELP section of any site is invaluable to a parent. Every social media site, app, or media product such as online video games has a help section that will give you the option to “Report Inappropriate Content,” that includes people, comments, videos, photos, or behaviors.
  9. Cybertip Line. Trust your gut. If you see something suspect online or have information regarding possible child sexual exploitation, report it to the Cybertip Line.
  10. A Good Question. My final secret weapon is this: Stop talking and ask your kids good questions. By having a strong connection with your kids—and the things online that matter to them—you will cut your tech learning curve in half! Instead of talking “at” your kids about safety, simply pick up their phone and ask them to tell you about their favorite apps and how they work. You’ll be surprised how far a good question will take you into understanding what’s going on in their world.

So these are a few of my secret weapons, what are yours? Do you have any favorite go-to resources you can add to this list?

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Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @SafeEyes. (Disclosures).

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