For most of us, our online and offline lives are relatively separate. For our kids, though, they’ve grown up surrounded by technology and the internet, so whilst they are “finding themselves” in the physical world, they’re also trying to figure out who they are in the digital space.

There’s no question about it. The internet will be a large factor in who your child becomes. How they present themselves and behave online will ultimately become their reputation. The internet can be a wonderful place to learn, share, communicate, shop, and be creative, but unfortunately, there are also malicious entities at play, such as hackers and predators looking to exploit anyone they can. Keeping this in mind, how do we go about having the “tech talk” and teaching our kids the dangers of the online world without scaring them?

When starting tech conversations with your kids (yes, I said “conversations” because it shouldn’t just be a one-time thing), it’s essential for them to know that they can be open and honest with you without the fear of judgement or punishment. Letting them know that they can come to you when they find something upsetting online will encourage them to continue to do so when they get older. If your child feels that you trust them to behave responsibly online, they will be more likely to be open with you about what they are doing and who they are talking to on the internet.  

Just like you lock up your house when you’re not home, you lock your devices and accounts when you’re not using them. You need to teach your children how to lock their devices and accounts by setting up strong and unique passwords.

There are some things that your child shouldn’t be sharing online. Reposting funny videos or memes? Perfect, go right ahead. Sharing their phone number on a public forum? Let’s try and refrain from doing that. When having a tech talk, you need to lay out some ground rules about what is and isn’t appropriate for them to be sharing, and this could vary depending on their age. It’s important to remind them that they shouldn’t share things that could hurt or offend others. Remind them that they shouldn’t do or say anything to anyone online that they wouldn’t do or say in real life. We like to use the THINK acronym when it comes to sharing anything online:

T – is it True?

H – is it Helpful?

I – is it Inspiring?

N – is it Necessary?

K – is it Kind?

Inform your child about the risks they could possibly encounter online, namely inappropriate, or obscene content, cyberbullying, scams, and predators. They may not encounter all the risks out there but knowing about the potential risks of the internet will help them to be mindful when they are online. Learning to make good decisions online is one of the best things your child can do, as the internet will be a bigger part of their lives than it ever was in ours. Even if you have parental controls set up on your home computer, your child may still have access to other computers, like at school or a friend’s house, so you need to teach them to make good decisions, even when you aren’t there to monitor them.

With successful tech talks, we can encourage meaningful conversations with our kids about having fun online whilst still being aware of the potential dangers. The reality is that the internet is here to stay, so instead of forbidding your child from going online, allow them to explore in a way that is fun, beneficial, and educational. Have faith that your child will make the best decisions that they can, and that they will approach you when something goes wrong, knowing that you will be there to help them instead of judging them.