Eileen Fisher: GigaMom


Keeping Kids Safe Online

No Such Thing As Too Much Protection

Technology is an incredible and wonderful thing, and I truly believe it’s something that everyone needs to embrace in whatever way they can to enrich their lives. Geekdom rules. However, there is an ugly side to technology and social media: Cyberbullying

Like thousands of others last week, I was totally devastated to hear of another teen suicide that was the result of cyberbullying. Beautiful 15 year old Amanda Todd took her own life after years of trying to undo a mistake she did online.

When Amanda was just 12 years old, she was talked into doing something online and trusted the person coercing her. What happened afterwards spiralled Amanda into years of unrelenting bullying and blackmail that quickly moved from her online world to her world in person. She tried to fix it and when she couldn’t, she felt the only way out was to take her own life.

This beautiful girl should be alive today. This should not have happened. But sadly it did and everyone seems to be saying the same thing:


The sad truth of it is, nobody knows for sure. Her family did everything they could to make it stop. Her Mom Carol is much more tech-savvy than the average parent, but even that was not enough. There’s so much talk about people being against cyberbullying but it’s still happening. And kids are dying because of it.

Sadly, even after her death, Amanda Todd is still being bullied. There are jokes and images all over the internet about Amanda and her death. Seriously. That’s sick and disturbing. It’s hard to think that kids are really not getting that cyberbullying is NOT okay and it’s not funny. I don’t think it will ever go away.

Stories like this shake me to the core. Not only because it makes me angry that the evil side of technology and social media comes to light, but mostly because I have kids. And when it comes to my kids being online, I am their worst nightmare.

I have a confession to make. When I’m not busy working, being a soccer mom or golf widow, I’m up to something else.

I am my kids own personal CIA agent. Online.

It’s my feeling that if you have kids who have an online personality, parents have to be involved with what they are saying, and what is being said to them.

No secrets.

How I explain it to my kids, is that whatever they’re saying to people online, they need to imagine saying it with me in the room listening. I honestly don’t care if I hear cries of “Total invasion of privacy!” I think it’s what I need to do to be proactive as a parent whose kids are online. That’s just me. But I think the important thing is that if your kids are online, you do need to have an awareness of what’s going on, and not just be complacent to think that nothing bad will happen to them. Because it could.

If you have a child online, here are a few things you can do to try and help keep them safe. Remember that nothing is 100% foolproof and not everything works for everyone, this is just what I do when I have my CIA hat & dark shades on.

  • Get online. Be your child’s friend on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter. Subscribe to their YouTube channel. Check their pages every day. Every. Day.
  • Control their passwords. Make sure you know every single password and that it’s routinely changed.
  • Check your child’s Facebook messages and text messages. Look for conversations that you as an adult, would be uncomfortable with.
  • Sit down with your child and go through their friend’s list on Facebook. Ask them who everybody is and confirm that the Facebook friend IS actually someone they know. If they’re not sure or forget, unfriend. Trust me, they may not like this at first, but it’s no big loss at all.
  • Ask your child to use a profile photo that is NOT of them. Facebook profile and cover photos are public - anyone can see them & it’s best if they use a generic image, not something that’s personally identifiable to them.
  • Check your child’s privacy settings on Facebook.  Tighten them up if you need to. Explain how the ripple effect of making something viewable by “friends of friends” is huge. HUGE.
  • Tell your kids about the Kids Help Phone. (1-800-668-6868) They can talk anonymously to a counsellor about anything at any time. Sometimes kids feel more comfortable talking about things with someone who doesn’t know them personally. That’s why Kids Help Phone is around. 
  • Trust your instincts. If you’re getting the feeling that something isn’t right, act on it. Talk to your child, their school, other parents... whatever you think you need to do.

Being a parent in this changing world of technology can be scary and daunting. But when my kids were born, I made a vow to keep them safe no matter what. If that means I have to be the bad guy, so be it.

I’d rather that I be the bad guy than someone else.