SPOKANE, Wash. - Cyberbullying, sexting and child predators are all just a click away from our kids, but you can keep your kids safe by having the "digital talk" with them.
Not unlike the sex talk or the drugs and alcohol talk, the digital talk needs to happen if your kids use a computer or cell phone.
"I usually text from the time I get home until I go to bed," Jacob, a 16-year-old Mt. Spokane student said.
On average Jacob sends an average of 3,000 texts a month, and he's right on track with most teenagers who have cell phones. His 13-year-old brother Dillon and 15-year-old stepbrother Trevor are about the same.The Digital Talk
"I don't really like talking on the phone, texting is just easier," Trevor said.
All three boys have their own cell phones, iPads and computer access, which their parents find beneficial.
"The primary reason was for us to have communication with them and you know a sense of responsibility," mom Mary Payne said.
Mary and her husband Brian focus on responsibility in allowing the boys the privilege of technology ownership.
"We want to instill with them as far like someday when they have to have a job and are working if they don't fulfill certain expectations, things get taken away," Brian said.
The Paynes have strict rules with no gray areas: Abide by the rules or lose the privilege. Keep your room clean, do chores and get good grades, which they check online.
"Absolutely no inappropriate pictures, or bullying, or being a part of any negative threads online," Mary said.
Mom and dad are watching and the boys know it.
"Before every Facebook post or tweet I make, I think 'Will my parents be OK with this?' And sometimes it's like 'I better not say that,'" Jacob said.
That's the kind of forethought Hannah Masters would like to see more from teenagers. Masters runs a company called abeanstalk.com, whose purpose is to educate and engage parents and young people about cyber safety. Why the name Abeanstalk?
"Our generation automatically thinks of Jack and the beanstalk. Well, our children are spending a lot of time in the cloud and we needed a way to connect us, parents to that world," she explained.
Its a world that can be intimidating for the technologically un-savvy. Many of us don't have a clue how to navigate this with our children.. Much less begin the conversation.
Abeanstalk makes it very easy with an internet mobile safety pledge aimed at keeping our children safe
"'I promise not to meet anybody in real life that I met online. I'm not gonna say harassing or mean things.' It just goes through some of the real serious talking points that can really cause devastation in your life," Masters said.
On the website you'll find a free program that tracks your child's digital world, what's coming in and what's going out.
"It filters it 24 hours a day and in the event that something is going out of bounds, mom or dad gets a real-time notification," Masters said.
The program searches for keywords, phrases and acronyms. Today it highlights about 7,500 and the system is learning more all the time. If it finds those targets coming to or from your child you are notified.
"This service allows us that window in the world," Masters said. "So the first time your child is being bullied, you can then step in and say 'Whoa, what's going on with so and so?'"
You can upgrade that service; for a monthly fee, you can add a GPS tracker on your childs' phone
"My child knows I trust him and I can verify at any time where he's supposed to be and that helps him. It gives him something to fall back on when his friends say, 'Oh let's go do this' and he can say, 'No. I'm supposed to be here. My mom can check," Masters said.
And, when parents are engaged, both the parents and children have peace of mind.
"I know it's all good in the long run," Jacob said.