Tips To Ensure Your Kids Stay Safe Online
Whilst your children are growing up, as a parent, you are responsible for their well-being. Whilst this obviously refers to their physical presence, their digital presence should also be of your concern. As more and more of our daily interactions happen digitally, making sure your kids are safe online is imperative.
The fact is, we are all spending a lot of time on the internet these days and we know that it can offer not only entertainment, but also numerous learning opportunities, and potential stumbling-blocks, for our children. Computer skills are also increasingly vital in today’s society. With that said, completely prohibiting your children from going online isn’t practical, even if it is out of concern for their safety. By combining real-life care methods with security software and technology, you can easily decrease some of the more prominent pitfalls.
Whether your kids are using the Internet for study, just for gaming or accessing social networks, by following these tips you can help to educate your children on acceptable practise online, whilst also improving their online security knowledge and keeping an eye on what they’re up to:
1. Keep yourself up to date with current digital trends. Learn about all the new technologies, social networks and tools that your children use, to ensure your aware of the any difficulties they may come up against.
2. If you wish, you can install parental monitoring and controlled-access software on your computer. With these programmes, you can limit what your child can or cannot access, and keep an eye of their activities.
3. Set up the computer in a communal area of the house. This way, you and other family members can keep an eye on what the kids are up to. Although we do understand that the concept of a “family computer” may be somewhat outdated, perhaps you could implement a “tech zone” in a communal space where all tablets and smartphones live – and from which they cannot be removed.
4. Be conscious of, and informed about, all the available social networking sites. If your children want to start using any social network, be sure are old enough to meet the minimum age requirements for signing up. Most networks require a minimum age of 13 to create an account in accordance with COPPA guideline. Then, sit with them throughout the sign up and make sure they enable the correct privacy settings for their account, so they can restrict who has access to their profiles and photos.
5. Discuss with your child what you consider appropriate behaviour online. Talk about good practice and acceptable behaviour, such as never posting content publicly, not revealing personal information, avoiding posting personal photos, not giving out their passwords and never accepting any invitation from a stranger. It’s also a good idea to insist that they are ‘friends’ with you on the various social networks they choose to use.
6. Keep a list of all of the passwords set to your child’s online accounts. Advise them that if they wish to build a digital presence, you will be monitoring it. Let them know that if you suspect they are not following your guidelines, that you may choose to check their account. This shouldn’t be a threat, but a mutual understanding that they need to use good judgement, and if they don’t, there will be consequences.
7. Periodically check the chat and search history, and the sites that your child has accessed. Every week, ‘google’ the name of your child and see whether they are posting anything publicly. If you find any public content, or anything you are unhappy with, call your child for a chat and speak clearly about why that content shouldn’t be there.
8. Report sites and users performing illegal activities, and encourage your child to do the same. If you think a site has collected inappropriate information from your kids or marketed to them in a way that violates the law, report it to the appropriate legal authorities. In the United States, for example, this can be done through the FTC.
9. Explain to your child that they should only ever open emails or messages from people they know in real-life. Advise them that emails from strangers can contain viruses and spam that would damage the computer and leak confidential information to malicious recipients.
10. And finally, one of the most important pieces of advice to give to your child is that they can find same problems online that experience in the real-world. Encourage them to tell you if they feel threatened by someone or uncomfortable because of something online. Advise them that what they share in their network can reach a huge number of people – far beyond their comprehension – and that there is no getting it back, so being aware of the consequences of everything they do online is extremely important. They need to be aware that even when they use the internet outside of their home and school, or other devices, the should know how to act and respect the same rules followed at home.