Years ago, having “the talk” with your kids meant telling them where babies come from. Nowadays, “the talk” has a whole new meaning. Your kids may be able to explain in detail how a baby is created, but may be clueless (because so many adults are) about something called “data permanence.”
Don’t beat around the bush. Tell your kid outright, “If you post any racy images of yourself online—it will be there for the next million years for anyone to see. And it can be used against you.” Give this same warning about comments your child might post to an article. Things that your kids put online can come back to bite them many years later when they’re applying for employment. Tell them that.
Of course, warning your adolescent that something they post could come back to haunt them 20 years from now might not have much of an impact on them—kind of like telling your kid—who has endless energy—that smoking could cause heart disease 20 years from now. So how can you get through to your kids?
- The more open the lines of communication are between parent and child, the more likely your message will get through about data permanence. Don’t make communication one-sided.
- When your kids ask you how things work, even if it’s not related to cyber space, never act annoyed. Never make them feel it was a silly question. Never show impatience or judgment. If you don’t know the answer to their techy question, say, “I don’t know; let’s find out.” Don’t fudge a half-baked answer in an attempt to sound smart. Admit when you don’t know an answer, then hunt it down.
- If you think it’s time to have “the talk” with your child, it is.
- There’s never a perfect time to have “the talk.” Stop putting it off. Stop saying, “I’ll have it when…” Just do it.
- Emphasize that raunchy images or nasty comments can come back to bite them in the near For example, they might have a crush on someone in a few years. What if that person googles them? What might they find? Ask your child, “What would you like them NOT to discover?”
- Don’t be all lecture. Get your child thinking and talking opportunities. Ask them open-ended questions, such as the example in the previous bullet point. Get their brain cells working.
- The privacy talk should be a process, not an event. That is, it should be a work in progress, ongoing, rather than a single event.