Yahoo! Mother Board summit was discussing online safety. They showed us a video on one family's experience. Their daughter seemed like a fairly normal teenager; no real signs of danger or trouble. When she started to pull away a little from the family, they assumed that it was a natural development milestone, and respected her need for space. They were your typical family.
Until the mother found their daughter had hung herself in her room. They learned later that she had sent a picture of herself unclothed to a guy. That guy passed it on until eventually, it was on the internet.
In the discussion that followed, they talked about the moments that might have changed the outcome. If the boy that had received the photo had not forwarded it; if someone that received it had told his parents or her parents; and, of course, if she had never sent it.
The Yahoo! experts have broken down the issue to 3 C's: keep Current, keep Communicating, keep Checking.
Keep Current: As with everything, education is our most powerful tool for parents. We need to know the capabilities of the latest technology, the popular sites, the lingo, and utilize what we can to keep our children safe from the first time they explore the web until they're 18.
Keep Communicating: As they get older, the conversation needs to grow with them. When they're young, the most common fears are cyber-predators and cyberbullying. The conversation cannot end when they reach their teen years. Both girls and boys need to be aware of the possible legal consequences to their actions. They should be thinking about how what they post can affect their lives later. Employers are googling applicants now. When they're in college, they should avoid posting pics of their beer pong parties. They also need to be aware of what their friends are posting. I suggest setting up a daily search alert for their names, their schools and any organizations in which they are active.
Keep Checking: Keep checking their web history, their pictures and videos, their calling history for any odd area codes. If they're not following the rules, then their technology privileges can be taken away. A cell phone is not a right, and most kids simply don't need the latest and greatest technology out there.
I still had one burning question, which I discussed with fellow Mother Board members at dinner. What do I do if the worst happens?
Because let's face it, teenagers do things behind our backs. I can do everything in my power to prevent problems, but I also want to make sure that any mistakes they make aren't irreparable.
In the event that a picture or something is out there that my daughter does not want the world to see, she will know that she can come to me and we will work together to remove it as best as we can. We will call those that have access to it, and their parents, and we will come together to minimize the damage as best we can.
I hope, of course, that it never comes to that, but I feel a little better at least having a plan in the worst case scenario.