Boomer Parenting Tips – Internet Safety – An Introduction

What are our kids doing on the Internet?

Internet Safety is a subject that is both sensitive and ultra-important to all parents. As parents, our job is to protect our children.  But, sometimes protecting them from dangers can be difficult, alienate them, and frankly even be hard to implement.  The internet has its share of mysteries and many a parent that wants to provide Internet security in their home is confused by this ethereal place. A sexual predator as recently portrayed in the movie “Trust,” is the ultimate nightmare for any parent. It is our job as parents to learn about these “mysteries” and understand the Internet’s potential for good and bad.

My BTT partner Linda Sherman Gordon interviewed Ian Lurie (, @portentint on Twitter, on this subject at a Social Media conference.  The interview was direct and valuable and made me realize how important and pervasive this issue is!

The bottom line of the interview with Ian was that being an involved parent is the job, whether it is monitoring what your kids are doing on the Internet, knowing who their friends and dates are, or dealing with the multitude of school-related issues.

As a parent myself, and a writer about family issues, this subject of Internet Safety comes up often in my home and with my readers and (radio show) listeners.  But, it’s not simple.

Teaching your kids Internet safety is really no different than teaching them proper manners or how to behave in public.  Plus, the Internet is public.  VERY public! It’s a permanent record that can come back to haunt your kid if they ever post something stupid or embarrassing, as we read about all the time.

When my older teen started posting stupid photos of himself on his Facebook profile, I quickly reminded him that his potential employers might and likely would see that photo of him sticking up his middle finger or mooning the camera. Did he really want that out there for anyone and everyone to see?

Knowing what your children are doing online, knowing who their friends are, is really no different because it is online.  As a parent, you want to know who their friends are, who they’re “hanging out” with, etc.  This goes back to my assertion that the job of being a good parent isn’t being your kids’ best friend.  They don’t need you to be their best friend.  So, ask what they’re doing, ask to see the sites they’re on, and while it may be controversial, if you have reasonable suspicions of inappropriate activity (e.g. drug use or sexual mis-behavior), don’t be afraid to go on their computer and find out for yourself!

A GREAT suggestion made by Ian in the interview, which I’d never thought of, is to use “Google Alerts” to find out any mentions of your kid’s names.  See my partner Linda Sherman’s “How To” on this subject, if you don’t know how to do that already.

In the meantime, here are some basic tips to consider right now:

1. A computer for your children is a privilege, not a right. Therefore, YOU have every “right” to monitor its activity and regulate its use.  I don’t care what your kid’s friends do – it’s your kids you care about.

2. When your kids are still middle-school age or younger, there should be just one “family” computer for their use. It should only be in a very public place where their activity can easily be monitored.

3. Remember that your kids have many screens in their lives these days. Think about how many! There are iPods, cell-phones, laptops and desktops, iPads and their competitors, video games both portable and big, television, portable video devices, and on and on. Limit their time on these screens. Keep track of the amount of time your children spend on them. Maybe require an equal amount of outside/physical activity.

4. Just as you will have the “birds and the bees” discussion with your children at the right time, so should you have the “facts of tech life” discussion with them. People lie online. It’s no different than the advice you give your single friends about online dating.  Be open, but be cautious.

5. When your children are old enough to have their own computer in their room, do not be afraid to check what they’re doing with it. This is not an invasion of their privacy.  It is a protection of their innocence.

6. There are a myriad of Internet Safety programs you can employ. Boomer Tech Talk will follow this introduction to Internet Safety with some recommendations/reviews but in the interim if you believe you have a good one, install it. I don’t care what your teenager says, how much they howl “Trust Me,” or how many of their friends don’t have this sort of parental supervision, you just do it!

7. Don’t hide your head in the sand about what is online as far as the mainstream Social Media websites your kids use. Visit Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and any others you hear your kids talk about. Get familiar with them. Many of these websites are really your kid’s best friends…know them just like their human counterparts.

This subject needs to be out in the open. I want parents to NOT be afraid to spy on their kids. I want you to protect your kids and have your eyes wide open. We’ll follow up with more on this subject in a future article.

Bruce Sallan Book Cover


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  • Eric Costantino

    As a blogger and a dad I am a little worried about the attention my writing can bring to my family. It is my intention to keep very close tabs on all computer use. We all use the same computer. Not always convenient but it keeps me in control.

    • Bruce Sallan

      I hope other parents share their experiences and stories! Thx for your comment on our Internet Safety article Eric. I, too, worry about how my writing affects my family, especially my “A Dad’s Point-of-View” columns. But, Internet Safety in general is a concern for all parents.

  • Dave Webb

    I like the fact that, in the interview, Ian said to not just rely on software, but have a real relationship with your children. Talk to to them about their online activities and friends. I think this is key.

    I also appreciated your seven tips. They provide solid ground for keeping our family’s online activity safe.

    Stressing safety is foundational to directing our kid’s foray into the online world. It is vital and must be addressed. Cyberbullying, predators, sexting and such are real threats and should be taken seriously. It’s important to have frank conversations with our children about potential pitfalls and educate them on how to navigate them. I would add, though, that I’ve seen a lot of techopanics and scare tactics that are actually counterproductive. Alongside equipping them with defensive skills, we should also be arming them with the offensive skills to use online tools for positive impact. Creating this holistic, positive approach can go a long way to getting buy-in from our children, and they will have a greater understanding that we are really just looking out for their best interests.

    • Bruce Sallan

      I agree that parents can get to worried and have a “technopanic” regarding this issue. Like everything in life and parenting, it’s about being informed and having balance. Thanks much for the comment Dave!

  • Jill

    Our family is NOT paying enough attention to this. Thanks for the reminder. It’s so easy just to let this sort of stuff go!

    • Bruce Sallan

      It sure is Jill. Thx for your comments!

    • timmyjohnboy

      As someone who is not yet a parent I have to ask, is it hard to implement steps like these once other boundaries have already been established?

    • Bruce Sallan

      Yes, Jill, with all we have to do it is “easy to let this stuff go!” Thanks for the comment!

  • Howard

    I’m not sure how needs the protection more – me or my kids! Great tips Bruce and very useful to this dad whose kids are almost that age!

    • Bruce Sallan

      Frankly, we all could use some protection from the garbage on the web! Lol Howard!

  • Chris Moonlight

    When it comes to the internet we are all children. People don’t realize just what they are revealing about themselves. Next time you take a Facebook survey ask yourself, “if the government were asking for this information, would I consider it an invasion of privacy?” Of course you would, but here we all are taking these surveys for “fun.” One recently asked “Have you read the Koran?” What if I have? Could the government later in act some special power to gather that info an put it in some sort of file on me? Could it be used against me if they didn’t like what I had to say. The problem goes well beyond protecting our kids from all the unknowns that ARE watching. All of our individuality, our identities as free people are at risk of corruption, persecution, or alienation. The hardest part to face is that we can’t always be there to check up on them. The answer is to teach our children the art of critical thinking. It will not only keep them safe today, but all of their lives.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Very smart observations Chris and so appreciated. Others care to weigh in on this subject of Internet Safety and its complexities?

  • Shadra

    Bruce, these are great tips! I completely agree that the Internet is a privilege not a right. I also think Internet safety education needs to start as soon as your kids can sit at the computer-no different than age appropriate stranger danger lessons.

    • Bruce Sallan

      We sure agree Shadra! So much more to think about and be aware of as parents today!

  • http://www.RegainYourRelationship.Com Terez

    All of these tips are outstanding, but my favorite is set up a Google alert with your child’s name! This is such a great way to keep informed of what your child is doing ANYwhere on the net. I completely agree that the primary goal of parenting is not to be your child’s best friend, but their PARENT. Bruce, this isn’t just a great article, but a wonderful public service.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thank you Ian Lurie (@portentint) for that suggestion and thanks for your comment and undying support Terez! Love ya, man!

  • Pingback: How to Set Up a Google Alert by Linda Sherman | Boomer Tech Talk()

  • Aaron Sallan

    Please don’t you dare put one of those programs on my computer dad!

  • Ward C.

    These are great tips because they are common-sense and easy to set in place. Thanks for the info, Bruce.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Thanks Ward. Any relation to “The Beav?”

  • firstSTREET

    Definitely good advice here. There are so many types of online scams and predators which children may fall victim to. You make a great point about how even if parents refuse to learn/use the technology, this doesn’t mean their kids won’t use it. I think that as long as there are children under your roof, you have both the right and responsibility to guide their interactions with people online and offline. Thanks for sharing the video!

    • Bruce Sallan

      We certainly agree about our responsibility as parents FS! Thanks for commenting.

  • Anonymous

    This is very useful information, and it’s great that you’re getting it out there. In running an overnight camp, we love to see kids keep in touch throughout the year online or by phone, but we also want them to be safe, of course. We ask our parents to oversee their children’s communication, including the fact that we don’t want camp counselors and campers to communicate unless it’s been approved by the parents. We specifically ask our counselors not to accept friend requests from campers on facebook, and not to give out their email addresses or phone numbers. We tell the campers that if they want to contact a counselor, they need to have their parents request this through us, and we will get the contact information. That way, at least the parents are in the loop initially, and then it’s up to them to oversee it. We still don’t encourage this, but it helps us to at least feel like there’s some parental control and responsibility. It’s all very challenging!

    • Bruce Sallan

      I want to be a camp counselor again? Thanks for the comment CC!

  • Jaerith1990

    We have installed applications in the computer that will enable us to control what the kids can access on the internet. We also use a software wherein we can monitor and control the number of hours the kids can use the computer per day or per week.

  • Brooke Chloe

    we might be able to apply these tips in our daily routine. Thanks for sharing these tips. Here is more material about current hot issue which support us to know how parents can help our immature age boys and girls.

  • Nicki Marie II

    An 8-year-old might do an online search for “Lego.” But with just one
    missed keystroke, the word “Legs” is entered instead, and the child may
    be directed to a slew of websites with a focus on legs, some of which
    may contain pornographic material. That’s why it’s important to be aware of what your kids see and hear on the Internet, who they meet, and what they share about themselves online. Just like any safety issue, it’s wise to talk with your kids about your concerns, take advantage of resources to protect them, and keep a close eye on their activities. That’s why we should install spy apps on their cellphones, tablets etc. I’ve recommended TOS Navigator app which is basically a parental monitoring app to track and monitor kids cell phone activities. You Should snoop on your kids mobile internet activities if you want to keep safe from cyber crimes.