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Cybersafe Play Dates

You may be familiar and effective at policing your child’s internet habits at home but what about creating cybersafe play dates when they go to a friend’s house?┬áThe computer policies regarding net usage and privacy may be vastly different from the parents of the child whose house your child may be spending an afternoon with.


I was recently featured on WDIV’s Live in the D discussing summertime playdates. WDIV’s Karen Drew focused a lot on the importance of outdoor safety and offered tips to help keep kids safe while running around and socializing in the summer. The conversation made me reflect on the other 9 months of the year when play dates are frequently indoors.

I like to think I run a pretty tight ship when it comes to screen time in our house. Computers are in main rooms of our house (like our kitchen, basement, and living room). Laptops are not permitted anywhere behind closed doors. We also don’t allow any screen time before 6p during the summer. I have parental controls set up on all computers and phones and I put limits on video game usage. Privacy settings are a BIG DEAL in my house. Since I don’t allow much online screen time, my kids do a decent job checking themselves and not getting into bad situations online. I realize this may not be the case in the homes of my childrens’ friends.

Often a playdate to another house can be like an internet vacation for my kids. No limits on video games and who knows what they’re searching for on YouTube behind closed doors.

Tiffany Dziurman Stozicki, a longtime friend of Oakland County Moms, wrote several poignant articles for OCM back in the day regarding cyber safety. In an old column, she shared my concerns about cybersafe play dates and shared a story about sending her daughter to house where the friend’s entertainment of the day was watching YouTube videos and even┬ávisiting a chat room.

Without being an internet Nazi or the dreaded “helicopter mom”, you can help your peace of mind by folliwng a couple of tips to creating a cybersafe playdates…

1 – Flat-out ask the child’s parents about their computer usage. Sounds messy but there is a way you can easily do this without being invasive! By explaining your own policy, it allows others to adjust to you. Just
say “we don’t do a lot of internet or screen time at our house…”. 9x out of 10 the other parents totally get where you’re coming from and find it refreshing. They usually don’t want their child on a tablet all day
either and will go out of their way to encourage a more active, social playdate.
2 – Share your home’s computer policy or cybersafe play date policy with other parents. You’d be surprised how many parents don’t know about parental control apps and privacy settings!
3 – Monitor your children’s computer use no matter what their age or school grade. A GREAT tip from Tiffany!
4 – Ask your child their plans on the play date and remind them that play dates are designed to be social and not hunkered around a computer.

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