10 Tips on Discussing a Screwed Up World with Kids

Do you have children? How do you talk to them when something like a mass shooting happens? What about a robbery in your neighborhood? Do you talk about nuclear weapons? If you are like most parents, you don’t know where to start. Here’s 10 tips that you can use to talk to your kids about our screwed up world:

Young Kids – Ages 2 to 6

Parents Are in Charge – We control the “information flow” which means we can restrict what information they have access to. No mobile phones, no tablets, no TV news or conversations in the house or others homes on topics to intense for young kids. We ask questions before we send them to others homes and tell them our requirements.

Don’t Expose Them – Don’t watch adult-themed shows until they are in bed.

Don’t Bring it Up – It’s also recommended that you don’t even bring it up…unless, for some reason, they bring it up to you. If you do have to talk to them about it, keep it simple.

Tell Them You are Safe – If you do have to address a situation like this, make sure that you tell your kids that they are safe. Give them a hug and assure them.

Older Children – Age 7 to 12

Parents Are in Charge – We control the “information flow”. Don’t give me a BS excuse “I already gave my 11 year old a mobile phone and he has a TV in his bedroom. Stop the madness and start parenting.

Talk to Them if They Talk to You – For older kids, you should talk to them about these incidents, but only if they know about the event. Tell them that you would love to talk about it with them.

Listen – Talking it out is only one part of this. You also have to be a good listener. Ask them questions, too, such as what they heard, how they know about the incident, and how they feel about it.

Be Honest – When dealing with tweens, you should make sure that the truth comes from you, not from their friends nor the television or internet. You don’t have to go into great detail, and you should explain it in a way they will understand, i.e. explaining that the mass shooter/terrorist/predator etc likely is mentally ill.

Discuss the Media – It’s likely that kids this age will get information from the media, but make sure they know that the media likes to sensationalize things to get people’s attention.


Assume They Know – Teens likely know that an event has happened, but don’t assume that they have the whole story. They often get their news from friends or social media, and that information is often incomplete.

Engage Them in Conversation – Talking it out can help teens come to terms with these incidents.  

Give Them Hope – Finally, give your teenager hope that things will be alright. A lot of teens are focused on the dark side of things, so make sure to bring in a bright light.

No matter their age, engage their schools administration. Most schools have systems in place to deal with and discuss tragic events based on the age and grades of the students. Often, parents will feel better that their schools have a good handle on these discussions. But it’s also up to the parents to put it out there, to let the schools know what the parents expect.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of Identity Theft Privacy: Security Protection and Fraud Prevention: Your Guide to Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft and Computer Fraud. See him knock’em dead in this Security Awareness Training video.

5 Digital New Year’s Resolutions For Parents

McAfee recently distributed a press release and the line that caught my eye was, “Now is the time for parents to model good behavior and etiquette.”  it This wasn’t something you’d normally expect to see from a major security company, so intrigued, I read on.

Instruction in etiquette and good behavior is something we could all probably use a little more of. And when I read McAfee’s “5 New Year’s Resolutions,” I realized that even though I have young children, I ought to brush up on some digital etiquette myself. It’s not too late to do your resolutions or start news ones or just brush up on your online safety.

McAfee suggests that parents begin the New Year with resolutions that address their own behavior, so they can model best practices for kids and teens:

When I’m with my children, I pledge not to spend more than 10% of the time on my phone or computer.
Adults spend about 3.5 hours day perusing the Internet or staring at their cell phone each day, according to estimates from eMarketer. This year, make a promise to give your full attention to your children, and develop a plan to limit your use of electronic devices.

I will not communicate with my children via text when they are in the house.
One downside of technology is that fewer people actually speak to one another. A Kaiser study found that children in grades 7-12 spend an average of 1.5 hours a day sending or receiving texts.

I will not give my child access to an Internet browser on a smartphone or tablet that is not safe for them to use.
It’s important for parents to shield children from cyber-danger by filtering explicit content on smartphones and tablets via applications such as McAfee Family Protection or McAfee Safe Eyessoftware. This software can prevent children from establishing or accessing social networking accounts, limit Internet use, and block inappropriate websites or messenger chats.

I will be prepared to have a “texting intervention” if my teen’s thumbs begin to look like tiny body-builders.
Texting may be a quick and easy way to interact with others, but the impersonal nature of the communication and frequency of use can cause problems.

I will have “the talk” with my kids, to discuss what they are doing and with whom they are connecting online.
Children often lack an understanding of online dangers, or they may lack the maturity to make appropriate decisions.

By modeling good behavior and ensuring that children’s experiences on Internet-connected devices is a safe and healthy one, parents can ensure a 2012 that is free of digital drama.

Robert Siciliano is an Online Security Evangelist to McAfee. See him discussing identity theft on YouTube.(Disclosures)