An iPhone or iPad is an amazing gift. The entertainment and educational opportunities are nearly endless, but it also opens up the world of social media and cyberbullying. This is a multi-part series to give you the tools and resources necessary for a safe and enjoyable experience on your child’s new device. Real security is a multi-layered approach. There are no silver bullets. No one single measure will cover all the bases. Overlapping security structures will provide a relatively safe (but not perfectly safe) environment.
Step 1 – Set expectations and open lines of communication.
First, your child’s device does not belong to them, it belongs to you. It’s no different than when your employer gives you a phone or computer for work. You keep it, use it, and are responsible for it. But, at any time, your employer can take it from you, inspect it, put filters or monitoring software on it, and confiscate it if you are using it inappropriately. This is the dynamic that you need to have with your child. Explain it to them explicitly before you hand them their (your) new shiny iPhone.
Second, share your expectations for what is and is not appropriate internet use/behavior with your child. This is also a great way to start an on-going conversation between you and your child. No matter what systems you put in place, sooner or later your child is going to see inappropriate behavior online, including your child possibly being a victim of bullying. An open line of communication will help your child feel safe about telling you what they are seeing or experiencing online.
One of the best tools to set expectations and start the conversation is an Internet Usage Contract. Go over each point of the contact. For example, ask your child why “not giving out your personal information to a complete stranger” is a good idea. Ask them to give you examples of possible consequences for doing that. I would go down the line and do that for each point. Make it a two-way conversation. Lastly, explain what are the consequences or punishment for them (i.e., losing the device for a week) if they violate the contact. For the contract to mean anything, you must follow through on the consequences! Make them sign it and post the contract out in the open as a reminder of your expectations.