Captain Kirk isn’t the only one who gets to video chat these days. If your kids have a smart phone or laptop, they are likely having a lot of fun online. Video chatting can come in the form of FaceTime (iphones) or Skype, the online video chat app for any computer or smartphone; even Google + and Facebook have video chat options.
Video chatting for kids can be great. It’s an easy way to get more “hang time” and build friendships, do homework, and even go to events without “going” out. Communicating via video is here to stay for sure and getting more popular on mobile devices.
With every new digital craze comes a new set of concerns for parents. Skyping and video chat can take a turn for the worst as onetime innocent online chats evolve into inappropriate conversations, sexting, and dangerous relationships.
Here’s a brief guide to keeping video chats safe and fun:
- Set ground rules. Sit down with your kids and establish set times for video chatting. Remind them that when they are video chatting, it’s the same as spending time with that friend in person. Time limits on both video and online time is a good idea.
- Approve friends and chats. Just as you would say “yes” or “no” to certain friends your kids or teens want to spend time with, treat video chat friends that same way. Just as your teen or child must ask before going to a friend’s house, get in the habit of asking if they can video chat with a specific friend.
- Be digitally vigilant. With all the fun gadgets, apps, and video tools available online time can begin to look way too safe. Don’t fall for it. Remain digitally vigilant as a parent. It’s never a bad time to talk to your kids about online safety and the threat of predators and scammers.
- Stay age appropriate. If your child is too young to invite a friend of the opposite sex over or go on a date, then you may consider your personal rules for video chatting. Ask yourself: Would I let this boy or girl into my child’s room for the next hour?
- Get passwords, screen names. Keep Skype screen names (address) private and as always get your child’s password to Skype or any other platform, so you can check up on whom your child is chatting with. Video chat access is a dream for potential predators and they’ve gotten very clever on how they gain a child’s trust. Review friends and know there may be adults masquerading as teens. Also, don’t let your kids upload their personal information or photos onto video apps like Skype—it’s not necessary and could be risky.
- Automate monitoring. You can’t be everywhere all the time. Consider installing an automated solution to monitor your child’s friend activity in social networks and get reports on you child’s interactions.
- Keep computers in the open. Closed doors and private video chats are off limits. To keep your kids safe always keep computer use out in the open.
- Remind that nothing is private. Remind your kids that anything they do or say in a video chat can be recorded and shared.
Do your kids video chat? What guidelines do you have in place in your home? Please share!