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3 things LI moms must do to protect their kids online

Jen Boudin, left, Toni Contino and Erika Katz

Jen Boudin, left, Toni Contino and Erika Katz put their heads together to present the "Social Media Butterfly Luncheon" to teach moms what their kids are doing on the Internet. Photo Credit: Beth Whitehouse

More than 50 moms gathered for a “Social Media Butterfly Luncheon” in Albertson recently to learn what their kids might doing on the Internet – and social media maven Erika Katz was stunned when many moms weren’t sure how to download Twitter onto their iPhones.

“This is part of parenting. Like teaching them to brush their teeth,” Katz told the women, who were eager to learn about the tools their kids are using, such as Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. “There’s no more, ‘I don’t know where the App Store is.’ How are you going to protect your kids if you don’t know how to use this?”

The luncheon was organized by Jen Boudin, a Melville mom of a 12-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl who says she thrives on networking and connecting moms. “This event is teaching parents how to navigate the cyber world,” Boudin said.

Here are three pieces of advice Katz shared with the moms:

1. Open accounts and friend your kids. Make sure you are on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, for starters. “You can’t say, ‘Oh, Twitter, I can’t do that.’ It’s is now your job to learn how to tweet,” Katz said. If you can’t figure out how to do something, ask your kids for help; they want to teach you, Katz said. Learn the vocabulary, such as what a hashtag is used for. Watch what your kids are posting, and the comments that are made. “Do you really want bikini pictures of your daughter on Facebook?” Katz asked. Boudin joined Katz in informing the horrified moms present that their daughters, for instance, might post a picture of themselves online and be met by comments such as, “Hate that unibrow” or, “You are so ugly you should die.”

2. Teach your kids not to be cyberbullies. “Your kids are impulsive. They don’t think before they write,” Katz said. “Don’t think, ‘My kids would never do that.’ They would, they could, and they usually do.” Make sure kids realize that if someone posts an inappropriately sexual photo and they forward it to their friends, they could be in legal trouble themselves. “If you get anything out of today, you go home and talk to your kids about forwarding pictures,” Katz told the moms.

3. No social media after 9 p.m. This is a rule parents need to start when their kids are young, Katz said. It’s harder to impose as the children get older, Katz said. You have to take the electronics away from them, because they will stay up until all hours online, she said.

“This meeting is a big wake-up call,” said Adrienne Stoller, 41, of Port Washington, who has an 11-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son. “I’m really not a tech-savvy person and it really forced the issue. I need to know what my daughter is doing. I need to get with the times and start being more knowledgeable about what’s going on out in cyberspace.”

Toni Contino, co-owner of Mitch & Toni’s American Bistro, has four children herself, ages 14, 13, 12 and 7, and it was she who asked Boudin to put together the luncheon. “There are so many mothers, we think we know what’s going on but we really don’t,” Contino says. “It’s scary. Everything changes at the speed of light.”

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