I’ve often felt, as many people do, that the correct way to protect children from online predators, identity thieves, and less-than-credible web sites is to educate them. It might just be my inner teacher talking, but information is often the best deterrent.
Think about it. As adults, we know we can make better decisions when we’re informed. It’s the same for children (defined for these purposes as those under the age of 18). If we explain to them why giving any of their personal information to someone they just met is a bad idea, they have a better chance of making a good choice than they do if we just say, “Don’t ever give out personal information to someone you just met.” Children, by and large, actually have the capacity to understand reason, and many of tweens and teens actually appreciate it when you respect them enough to inform them rather than just impose rules that they see as pointless and in much need of being challenged.
What’s interesting is that there are more areas online that cater to helping parents teach their kids how to navigate the web safely. A couple of kid-friendly social media sites have recently appeared as another set of tools to help kids learn to balance sharing their life online without sharing too much of it.
Don’t block. Help them understand. It’s just like anything else. Children can excel at making good choices, but only if we arm them to understand what constitutes a good choice and what constitutes a bad choice.