I am the mother of children who know more about electronics than I ever did at their age. Some say children today are wired differently—it comes so naturally to them to be able to tap and slide their finger on a tablet or smartphone or program a DVR.
I still remember a time before I had children of my own. While at a girlfriend's house, her then 2-year-old daughter had to turn on the television.for me (I was unfamiliar with their cable) and proceeded to find her Leap Frog program in the queue without even batting an eyelash.
Fast forward five years, and I have a son who can navigate Netflix and is so savvy on my tablet that I must place it on airplane mode to ensure he doesn't go to the Play Store or on YouTube.
What was once foreign at its early inception to those of us in our late 30s is now commonplace to our preschoolers. It is so natural for my 5-year-old to ask to buy an app or think that stuff is just ordered on Amazon and delivered to our front porch.
As our society goes paperless (and I'm talking the use of cash) and websites store credit card information for ease of purchase, it is ever more important to talk to our children about Internet safety. We must explain, and they need to understand, that whatever is posted online is public domain and can be used by people we don't know.
If my 5-year-old wants to order something online, I ask him if he has enough money in hand. He must show me the website is safe by pointing to the lock. I'll then do the ordering with my credit card and he pays me cash. No matter your child's age, it is important to teach responsible online safety with money, especially while using my computer and my credit cards.
I recently asked a friend with children in high school how she protects their privacy and keeps their computers, phones and tablets secure. For phones and computers, she said, the location services are turned off on all of their devices and they can't make any change/modification unless they go through the administrator, which only she and her husband know the password for. They also do random "checks" just to see what they've been up to and to make sure the parental controls are being effective. They've had plenty of conversations about Internet safety and about putting their information online, emphasizing that anything shared (pictures, info, etc) is there for everyone to see.
As we navigate the Internet super highway with our children, let us practice what we preach and remember that those cute pictures of our precious kiddos in the bathtub don't need to be shared with the world!
Nikki Ducas is a Fredericksburg mom of two boys, a 5-year-old and 18-month-old. She is always thinking about economics and uses her time as teachable moments.