• Talk to your kids about what they are doing online. Just as you need to talk openly and honestly with them about real life relationships, you also want to discuss online and cellphone activity.  Make sure your kids fully understand that messages or pictures they send over the Internet or via their cell phones are not truly private or anonymous.  Also make sure they know that others might forward their pictures or messages to people they do not know or want to see them, and that school administrators and employers often look at online profiles to make judgments about potential students/employees.  It’s essential that your kids grasp the potential short-term and long-term consequences of their actions.  Tip: Ask your kids what their favorite things to do online are.
  • Know whom your kids are communicating with. While it’s a given that you want to know who your children are spending time with when they leave the house, it is equally as important to learn who your kids are spending time with online and via social media.  Supervising and monitoring your kids’ whereabouts both in real life and while online is essential for their safety.  Many young people consider someone a “friend” even if they’ve only met online.  What “friends” are your children making? Tip: Set rules for social networking, Instant messaging, emailing, online gaming, and using webcams.
  • Consider limitations on electronic communication. The days of having to talk on the phone in the kitchen in front of the whole family are long gone, but you can still limit the time your kids spend online and on the phone.  Consider, for example, telling your teen to leave the phone on the kitchen counter when they’re at home and to take the laptop out of their bedroom before they go to bed, so they won’t be tempted to log on or talk to friends at 2:00 AM.  Tip: Establish limits for which online sites children may visit and for how long.
  • Be aware of what your kids are posting publicly. Check out your child’s FB, Instagram, vine, Twitter, Snapchat, and other public online profiles from time to time.  This isn’t snooping—this is information your kids are making public.  If everyone else can look at it, why can’t you?  Talk with them specifically about their own notions of what is public and what is private.  Your views may differ, but you won’t know until you ask, listen, and discuss.  Tip: Help your child define what “inappropriate content” means.
  • Set expectations. Make sure you are clear with your child about what you consider appropriate “electronic” behavior.   Just as certain clothing is probably off-limits or certain language unacceptable in your house, make sure you let your kids know what is and is not allowed online either.  And give reminders of those expectations from time to time.  It doesn’t mean you don’t trust your kids, it just reinforces that you care about them enough to be paying attention.  Tip: Ask your child what personal information is, and why it should be kept private.