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Does your toddler know more about the apps on your tablet than you? Or does your baby recognise grandma better via Skype than seeing her face-to-face?

Well, you are not alone, and it is fascinating to see how babies respond to (and embrace) technology.

As parents, it is hard to stay up to date and follow all the trends – especially if you’re still trying to figure out which sleep training method to follow, what formula to use and which nappies work the best.

“Each digital photo you take contains enough information to see exactly where and when the photo was taken.”

I have good news! You don’t need to worry about staying up to date and having all the latest apps. However, I would like to encourage you to be a cyber-savvy parent to ensure you understand the risks of the digital and social media world and to navigate your way through it in a responsible way.

To most of us, cyber-manners are something new to learn, as this wasn’t part of the list of things our parents taught us. It is important to learn, though, because the ‘shares’,’ likes ‘and’ Tweets you make today could impact your child’s future, safety and employability.

We need to protect their online identities and carefully consider their digital footprints. We all have a digital footprint and I encourage you to look at your own footprint by searching your name in Google and using available online tools to see what other people can find when they search your name.

Do the same for your child and you might find other people who share the name. If this is the case, then I would invest in some digital real estate in the form of a URL and social media accounts (i.e. Rianette.com and Rianette.co.za).

Ways to help you be a more cyber-savvy parent:

  • Boundaries: However, instead of documenting your child’s life, rather enjoy life together and be on the journey with them. Instead of being the spectator, be the one they connect with daily. (Give your toddler your phone and see how they mimic the example you are setting – you might laugh or cry…)
  • Those embarrassing moments: The only baby and embarrassing photos of me are luckily stacked away in a box at my parents’ house. Your child’s beautiful sleeping moments and first steps are probably recorded on your phone and ready to be shared at any second. So are the cute bath photos, the embarrassing pencil up-the-nose and other awkward pictures. How do you think they will feel when they’re applying for job one day and part of the recruitment agency’s search findings is naked bath photos? Not exactly something you would want to attach to your own CV, right? Rather share the photos they would be happy with. After all, they haven’t given us permission to share these in the first place.
  • Tagging kids in photos: You should give permission to people who want to tag you and your kids in photos and in turn, ask permission before posting photos of other kids.
  • Geotagging: Each digital photo you take contains enough information to see exactly where and when the photo was taken. This is called Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF), which enables us to share lots of data in the form of a picture or image and which could put the people in the photo at risk. Also consider the backgrounds you share such as your home, school name and favourite park. This becomes a puzzle and, unfortunately, there are people on the net who could try to use these pieces for the wrong reasons. Before you take the pictures you plan on sharing, look for the ‘location’ icon on your phone and disable your location finder setting when you take photos or take the photos in ‘Flight Mode’.
  • Practice healthy habits: Great debates are being held about the impact of radiation of the devices we use and are surrounded by, hence some experts recommend that you rather use your headphones to talk on the phone instead of holding it next to your head. Also, rather wear it in your bag instead of in your pocket. It goes without saying, protect your brain and put it far from you while you sleep.
  • Facebook accounts: Many parents have created a very active Facebook account for the new family member and this is great if your privacy settings are strict and protecting your child. Please just consider how you document your child’s life and consider the fact that they might prefer not to have their whole life shared online.
  • Use available apps: There are so many fantastic apps to assist parents in tracking the time kids spend online to knowing their exact locations. At SaveTNet Cyber Safety we have looked at apps such as:

Please share these tips with your friends and family (and everyone who spends time with your child), as they will benefit everyone.

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