Helping Your Kids Be Smart Online

“Have you used Snapchat before?”

“Just once when we were sending a photo from [friend]’s phone. You know what Snapchat is?!?”

That last sentence was said a bit incredulously by my daughter and that filled me with both pride (yeah, I’m a cool mom who knows this stuff) and worry (after all our previous conversations about online safety she still thinks she knows things I don’t).

What had prompted this conversation was the fact that she was looking over my shoulder when I tweeted a link to a story about how someone has figured out how to recover Snapchat photos.

“On May 8, researchers at Decipher Forensics, a company in Orem, Utah, announced that they have figured out how to retrieve the supposedly self-destructing photos from the popular now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t photo-sharing app Snapchat. And will do so for a fee,” Businessweek reported.

Yes, I knew about Snapchat, but I had hoped that she didn’t. I try hard to keep up with new technology and not be quite as clueless as the parents in this video:

The company that makes that monitoring software also has an ebook titled “15 Digital Safety Rules Every Household Should Follow” that could be helpful for parents who, like myself, believe that talking early and often about online safety is more powerful than a big brother app.

I may hesitate on the “don’t friend anyone you don’t know in real life” rule, because if I’d followed it myself I’d have missed out on meeting some pretty cool people. But, there are some good nuggets of advice like:

  • They should not put anything up that they wouldn’t say to someone in person or would be embarrassed to have their school principal read,
  • They need to be aware that the possibility exists that the person on the other end of the profile isn’t really what he or she claims,
  • If you wouldn’t show the photo to Nana, don’t send it in a text, private chat or post it to social media, and
  • Never post, put in an online profile, or share with someone you don’t know in real life the following things: full name, address, telephone number, parents’ work address/telephone number, school name and location, or names of siblings.

On that last one, let me take a sidebar and speak to parents directly. You need to remember these tips when you post yourself. When you comment on your friends’ Facebook posts with things like “Johnny looks so handsome” or “Way to go [enter name of kid’s school] chess club” you are doing what you don’t want your own kids to do. Your friend might not have given out their child’s name or school, but you just shared it for them.

So, how did I leave off the conversation with my girl? With yet another admonition to never, ever, ever take photos of herself or let someone else take photos of her without all her clothes. If I say it enough, I’ll believe it will never happen…



  1. DeDe Webb · May 13, 2013

    Great article, Laura.
    Sadly, she does and always will know more than we do. 🙂
    Mostly about the most hip places that the kids hang out. I’ve watched my daughter go through a number of sites, mostly because the adults have discovered their old haunts, like Pinterest and Tumblr.
    Just know that she is listening when you warn her.
    She’ll probably come back with bad examples her friends are setting.
    Mine did.
    You’re a great Mom.
    Happy Mother’s Day!


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