As part of Whisper’s commitment to internet safety, we have partnered with the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) to develop guidelines for parents and teens on online safety. Whisper posed the following questions to FOSI’s CEO and Founder Stephen Balkam to provide guidelines on how families can keep each other safe and have positive online interactions.
Whisper: What are the top three online rules to have in place with my child?
Stephen Balkam, CEO & Founder of FOSI:
1) Make sure to set clear time limits on your child’s digital use including putting phones away one hour before bed.
2) Ensure settings on social media and apps are set to private.
3) Report bad behavior or troublesome content to [your parent] and to the service that you are on.
W: How do I keep track of all of the new apps and sites that keep popping up?
SB: Browse the App Store from time to time. Check the most popular apps on topappcharts.com and similar app listing chart sites. Check the app tip sheets & short videos on www.fosi.org/good-digital-parenting
W: Whisper has a zero-tolerance policy for online hate, and the Whisper Golden Rule is “Don’t Be Mean, Don’t Be Gross, and Don’t Break the Law.” On a broader level, though, how can I prevent my child from getting bullied online?
SB: Only friend people you know. Keep your profile private. Report any bullying behavior to your parents and the service you’re on. Don’t respond or engage with bullies online. And think before you post.
W: How can I have an open dialogue with my child so they what's going on in their "digital world" vs. "real world”?
SB: Most kids don’t see a separation between their online and offline lives. Recognize this. Talk often with your kids about what they’re doing online. Ask them to show you their favorite sites and apps.
W: I am on the internet all of the time; what are some ways I can be a good example?
SB: Don’t be online all the time! Be a good digital role model. Don’t bring phones to the table. Shut down your laptop when your kids come to talk with you on the couch. Don’t text and drive. Take a digital sabbath and shut down your devices for 24 or 48 hours on the weekend. Don’t use bullying or provocative language online. Ask your kids permission to post photos of them on social media sites. According to our own research, 19% of teens have asked their parents to take down embarrassing photos of themselves.
W: How can I enable actual restrictions on my child's phone?
(Whisper has compiled a handy guide here)
SB: You can also check out FOSI’s Good Digital Parenting tips and tools here. Google your carrier’s name and add “parental controls” to see instructions and videos showing you how to set these up.
W: How do I talk to my kids about online dangers, without scaring them too much?
SB: Stay calm. Explain the possible dangers as objectively as possible. Use stats for reputable research, e.g., Pew & FOSI. Provide information and practical ways they can respond if they encounter bad stuff or people online.
W: What tips do you have for helping kids cultivate a good online presence? Whisper, for example, posts the message “Say something nice…” when people respond to chat to encourage kind thoughts.
SB: Think before you post. Use the Grandma Rule: Would you be comfortable if your grandmother saw what you were about to post? Also the Golden Rule: "Text onto others as you would want to be texted to,” and consider you own digital reputation. Would you want a prospective college or employer see or read about you in the way you are about to post? And, on a more positive note, use the Internet to grow your digital skills and use it to showcase your expertise and good choices.
W: Whisper believes in the power of positivity, and we take many measures to cultivate a community that’s empathetic, kind and compassionate. How do I talk to my child about having a positive impact online?
SB: Show examples, like Malala or the high school student who spent a year anonymously posting very positive comments about everyone in his school year before revealing himself at graduation. Get involved with campaigns at DoSomething.org Be an up stander and not a bystander when you see bullying behavior online. Watch and share positive and uplifting videos online
Whisper is the largest online community where people share real thoughts and feelings, without identities or profiles. With over 20 million unique monthly users, Whisper offers a genuine engaged experience where people share confessions, trade advice, document personal journeys, make global friendships, and even fall in love.
About Family Online Safety Institute:
The Family Online Safety Institute is an international, non-profit organization which works to make the online world safer for kids and their families. FOSI convenes leaders in industry, government and the non-profit sectors to collaborate and innovate new solutions and policies in the field of online safety. Through research, resources, events and special projects, FOSI promotes a culture of responsibility online and encourages a sense of digital citizenship for all. You can find a full bio of Stephen Balkam here.