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Nonprofit keeping kids safe online through cyberparenting and open conversation

SAN ANTONIO - NextTalk, a non-profit organization in the Alamo City is sharing tips for parents and kids on how to stay safe online through cyberparenting and open conversation.

Tip #1: Create a safe place.

Remain calm. Don’t go into crazy-mom mode. I call it the parent filter, calm on the outside, but a mess on the inside. Example of when my daughter saw pornography on Instagram. Many times kids don’t report what they’re seeing online because they’re afraid the phone or the app will be taken away. But, if they didn’t do anything wrong, it doesn’t make sense to take it away. Instead, we must talk about it. Keep convos confidential. Don’t post their embarrassing questions or discussions on social media.

Tip #2: Set technology guidelines. Be in their online world.

You don’t have to be tech-savvy, but learn the basics. If my child wants to be on a large social media platform, I am on it. I learn it first. We have guidelines that there are no screens behind closed doors, at meals or at bedtime. Always in an open area of our home. I set restrictions. Go to settings > general > restrictions. When they get their first phone, implement a cell phone contract. I have one in my book.

Tip #3: Talk. Monitoring and restrictions are important, but it’s more about relationship.

Restrictions will fail. Restrictions will not catch anything within an app. For example, the Instagram story – her restrictions were set, but pornography came through. And, our kids will ALWAYS be more tech-savvy than us. They’re always one-step ahead with technology. So, the first line of defense to keeping your kids safe online is a healthy dialogue between parent and child.

So, how do you get your child talking?

Ask them, “Have you ever heard new words or phrases and you didn’t know what they meant?” Always ask me. Sometimes kids don’t give the correct info. Also, it’s important to teach our kids that it’s their responsibility to guard their heart and mind. Talk about this a lot. Open communication is not about sit-on-the-couch family meetings. This is not about “the sex talk.” When I say “talk,” I mean on-the-go. In the car. When you’re going to bed. When you’re getting up. Talking should be daily routine activity. When you and your teen have time alone in the car, ask about the rumors at school. Answer their sex questions. Tell them what slang words mean. Roleplay with them on what to do when porn pops up. Talk.

Tip #4: Don’t be afraid to tackle the tough stuff. No topic is off-limits.

With online exposure, you’re going to find even your young elementary kids asking complicated questions about difficult issues. Many times, we don’t talk to our kids because we’re not sure what we believe. If you’re in-between and not sure, share that with your kids! Tell them why you struggle because you see both sides of an issue. It’s good for your kids to see you work through things and have conversations about it! If you know where you stand, teach your moral truth. I personally write from a Christian perspective in my book because it’s how I parent. But, no matter what religious or spiritual background, it is equally important that we must ALL teach our kids to “DEFAULT TO LOVE.” Even with people who they may disagree with. We should always teach and model mutual respect. It’s never okay to bully, hate or be mean, even when you disagree with others. Treat others how we want to be treated. Always, default to love. Talk about cyberbullying. There is a soul behind that screen.

Tip #5: Seek support. Develop a tribe.

Cyberparenting has blindsided all of us. Don’t go it alone. Connect with us at nextTalk.

For more information, head online.

NextTalk website

Mandy Majors

FB: nextTalk

FB: authormandymajors

Twitter: nextTalkOrg

Twitter: mandymajors

Instagram: nextTalkOrg

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