5 Signs You’re ‘One of Those’ Clueless Parents Online

clueless parent onlineIt’s a fact. This blog may not get a lick of traction. It goes against every SEO rule. There will be zero conversion. It likely won’t be read or acted upon by its target market — clueless parents — because truthful headlines scare off excuse-filled readers. However, if you’ve made it beyond the headline because you are trying to improve your digital parenting, we applaud you and link arms with you henceforth. If you know a parent who is on the digital sidelines and their child is paying the price for that, then send them this post and blame it all on the know-it-all blogger at McAfee. (*high five*)

5 Behaviors of a Clueless Parent

  1. You “say” you know. Saying and doing are two different types of verbs. One is passive (saying), and one is highly active and engaged (doing). One is an apple. One is an orange. If you are a clueless parent, you nod when other parents recount their child’s digital crashes and cheer when someone offers up a consequence that sounds noble and strict. It’s time to stop nodding and saying you are involved when you aren’t. Don’t worry, as long as you are breathing, it’s never too late to become more involved in your child’s digital life. You haven’t missed the proverbial boat or non-existent one-time opportunity to learn the basics of social media, smartphones, and the simple technologies your kids love. You can and should move from saying to doing. And, there’s a band of parents who will applaud you and fold you into the tribe instantly.
  2. You see rules as a hassle. Clueless parents don’t see the need for technology ground rules, phone curfews, or monitoring. You think all of this safety talk is alarmist and that “kids will be kids” and the world will keep turning whether you monitor their devices or not. Frankly, this is an old-school philosophy based more on fear than not caring — fear that you can’t control the world around your kids, which you can’t. You can’t control the world, but as a parent, you are the #1 influencer in your child’s life. Knowing how to keep your kids safe online is no more of a hassle than making sure they are safe in New York City. You would do that, and must do this. Remember, if you see (or project to others) that you see rules as a hassle, then your kids will too, which means they may go through life breaking some big ones.
  3. You rank friendship over parenting. We’ve all seen those parents. And, if we are honest, we’ve all envied a few of them who (appear to) hold the best friend position in their kids’ lives. That’s great if you can also be your child’s parent equally well (an elusive balance I’ve never witnessed personally). If you refuse to set tech or behavior boundaries with your teen because you don’t want to rock the fun boat, you may be in for a rude awakening if and when a digital wreck occurs. Another warning sign in this category is that your kids brag on your parenting. If your kids paint you as ‘the cool one’ or say ‘that’s nuts – my mom would never take my phone!’ then Houston, we’ve got a problem. It’s even more of a problem if you see those comments as compliments. Don’t shoot for winning a popularity contest, aim for keeping your child safe and equipping him or her for success in the online world, which is expanding as we speak. I have a great relationship with my daughter, but she also knows I’m watching out for her, I’m serious about consequences, and I will act swiftly if she makes poor choices online or off. I enjoy that we are friends, but I don’t aspire in her teen years to be her best friend. Frankly, aspiring to the bff position in our children’s lives is a warped desire. There’s a balance we all need to aspire to in our parent-child relationships, and that balance always put the child’s best interest (guidelines, rules, consequences) above the parent’s emotional need for acceptance.
  4. You’ve stopped learning. Do you bookmark, favorite, like, and save excellent parenting articles but never get around to reading them? While the biggest task for a 1980-1990s parent may have been reading food labels and teaching kids to “Just say no” to drugs, the task of the digital parent is to stay ahead of the social networking curve as much as possible. It’s just not an option anymore to sit on the sidelines. It’s tough to consume all the great info online about parenting; we get that. However, if you only scan and never implement new information, you’ve stopped learning at your family’s expense.
  5. You ignore clear signs. You know that you know something is up, but choose to ignore it. You know your child is on Twitter all the time, but you refuse to learn the basics and open a Twitter account so you can check his or hers. You know that your child’s emotional spikes and plunges are directly linked to his or her time online, but you refuse to limit technology. You know (or have been told) that your child’s photos and posts are getting progressively more risky but allow it for the sake of his or her “self expression.” You know other parents are involved and this ignites excuses rather than action. Excuses such as “I don’t want to be a nosy parent. My kids need privacy no matter what.” Hoping that the crooked places straighten out themselves or that your child grows out of his or her angst or risky behavior, is parenting from denial. Stop ignoring the signs and get in the game.

If you are still in denial, glance at a few studies over the past two years released by McAfee. According to a 2013 study despite knowing the risks online, youth still engage in risky behavior and routinely hide it from their parents. Another study, conducted in 2015,“The Realities of Cyber Parenting: What Pre-teens and Teens Are Up To Online,” echoes the gap that exists between parents and kids.clueless parents online

But here’s the cool stat: 46% of youth engaging in risky behavior online say they would change their behavior if they knew their parents were paying attention, which means the responsibility rests solely on parents to step up their tech.

5 tips to go from clueless to equipped:

  1. Connect With Your Kids. Talk casually and frequently with your kids about online risks, and make sure the communication lines are open. Foster discussions around relevant news stories or cases at schools.
  2. Set Password Rules. To show camaraderie and trust, teens may share their social media passwords with friends or acquaintances. Friend or not, this is a dangerous practice. Put a consequence in place for breaking this critical password rule.
  3. Read App Reviews. By reading app flags, age restrictions (ranks include: everyone, low maturity, medium maturity, or high maturity) and customer reviews for an app, you will be better equipped to evaluate whether an app may be suitable for your child.
  4. Gain Access. Parents should have passwords for their children’s social media accounts and passcodes to their children’s devices which allow them to have full access.
  5. Up Your Tech Knowledge. Stay one step ahead and take the time to research the various devices your kids use, as well as creating your social media accounts. Staying knowledgeable about the newest and latest social networks is an important way to understand how they work and may help you determine whether your kids are on them.

Confession time: Are you in denial that you may be among the clueless? Share one thing you will do this week to change that. You’ve got this, parents!

 ToniTwitterHSToni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family and @ToniBirdsong.