In one short week, my oldest son will be entering the 7th grade.
It’s strange because, based on my youthful appearance and energetic personality, I don’t even feel like I’m nearly old enough to have a child who is almost ready to go to high school.
I swear I remember my 7th grade self so clearly… I had feathered hair. And I wore acid washed Jordache jeans. And I liked a skater who I met at the roller skating rink one Friday. He had a box.
I remember begging my parents for this really dope pair of British Knights for Christmas. They got me an even doper pair of LA Gear instead. I was so pumped. Sadly, I wore them just twice before some loser stole them from my gym locker.
Recently, we got Dude 1 a laptop, and nobody better not even think about stealing it.
Now, him breaking it is a whole other thing apparently.
A few weeks ago he took his newly acquired piece of technology to his Mimi’s house and, when he returned, said piece of technology would not boot up. At all.
Like black screen, cryptic white letters of evil saying things like fatal and unrecoverable and other such scary nonsense.
I came thiiiiiis close to panicking.
I spent an hour (or 5) online searching forums for help. I may have yelled a lot little. At everyone, including the dog. And, I distinctly recall tearing up.
Thankfully, after hours of searching and working, I was able to restore his machine to factory settings without anything smoking or catching fire.
We were both quite traumatized by this experience and agree that while the Internet is can be an evil, scary place, we also love it and couldn’t really live happily without.
But we need to be safer.
Kids and Technology: Online Safety Tips for Parents of Their Middle Schoolers
1. Don’t play games with antivirus protection software. You need it. It works. And, you kind of have to be intentional about it. Dude 1’s had expired, or deactivated, or disapparated Harry Potter style, or something, I don’t know. And, that was the problem. You have to know. You have to take time to activate it. You have to make sure it gets updated. And, you have to invest in a product that works. If you are in the market for something, Norton 360 Multi-Device is a solution for people like us who have more than one device that needs protection. It even protects mobile devices (wait a minute… my mobile device needs antivirus protection? Ugh, I need to get on this, stat). With Norton by Symantec coupons it’s also quite affordable.
2. Take time to deal with the parental controls. Again, the thing is not going to set itself. Parents have to be diligent about setting the restrictions on their child’s computer and devices. You need to take time to check their history to see where they’ve been online. I’m not saying your kid is intentionally being a creepier, I’m just saying that they’re, um, curious.
3. Get to know the apps they use and the sites they visit. Middle schoolers are pretty engaged in social apps and sites. Still, I constantly hear parents saying they don’t “get Snapchat”, or know what Whisper even is. If your kids use it you should know it and get it. That is all.
4. Be honest with your child about the dangers. Kids generally think their parents are overreacting, or not understanding, or just old. Share with them real consequences of unsafe online activity. Not just horror stories of abduction and torture, but situations they can relate to (like how their teachers and coaches can get ahold of their online activity and how that could hurt them).
5. Don’t freak out. Banning your children from the Internet isn’t super helpful. They use it to watch Minecraft mods on YouTube for school. They use it at their friends’ houses. And, frankly, there is so much good online. It’s important that you teach them how to use it appropriately, give them opportunities to learn and explore in a safe, controlled environment, and then trust them to do as you expect.
Disclosure: As a part of Coupons.com blogging team I received compensation for this post. All opinions and scary computer virus situations are my own.