Tween and teen parents: 8 simple things you can do to keep your kids safe(er) online
For every parent, the task of protecting our children online is a challenge that grows in complexity every day as our children's age and computer-use increases.
Computers, tablets and smartphones are here to stay, and the more they are becoming a part of children's lives, the more important it is to make sure they know how to use them in a safe and secure way.
Here are 8 ways to make sure of just that:
1. Have the conversation early and often
According to a recent survey, children and teens spend an average of between 12 and 15 hours online every week - all in all, a pretty decent proportion of their time. Which is why it's important to start talking to them about keeping safe and out of harms way online from an early age. And as with most other conversations like these, it might work a lot better to talk about online safety little and often, rather than trying to cram all the advice you have into one marathon lecture.
2. Keep up to speed on things
As your child gets older not only will they become more advanced in their knowledge of how the internet works and what they can find, but technology will also keep changing. This is why it is important that you keep having the conversation about staying safe online with your children, and also that you keep up to speed on what exactly it is your kids are up to online.
3. Explore the internet together
Be interested. Show your children that you both have time for and are interested in what they are doing when they are online, be it games, blogging or whatever else. Just as you would with their interest and pursuits offline. Ask them to show you their favourite things, check if they have questions about anything, explain things that need explaining and just make it clear that they can come to you with anything.
4. Make them aware of cybercrime
Cybercrime is an umbrella term used to describe online threats caused by financially motivated strangers. These can come in many forms, like computer viruses, phishing attacks or spam e-mails, and the cold hard truth is that this type of crime keeps growing and changing every year. Which is why it is important to make sure your children are made aware of how to stay safe. It can be smart to tell them to avoid clicking links, responding to ads or opening e-mails that are sent from someone they don't know or that seem a little suspicious. It's also vital that they know they can talk to you if they make an online mistake, like falling for a scam-ware alert or downloading something dangerous to the computer. Many kids are savvy enough to realize when they've downloaded a virus, but fewer might be comfortable admitting their mistake to their parents.
5. Be password savvy
Using a good and safe password on all your accounts and devices is paramount. Make sure your children know how to create good passwords, especially on accounts for their social networking sites and e-mail, as well as anything involving financial transactions. Advise your kids never to share passwords, not even with a close friend. If they think they did, they should change the password. Top Tip: Download the Keeper app and keep track of all the family's passwords in a safe way.
6. Be aware of who your child is talking to online
Keep in mind that children tend to think of people they meet online as online friends, not strangers. And sweet and trusting as this may be, it can also, unfortunately, be very dangerous. The best thing you can do is to keep track of who your children talk to online and what they talk about. Ask them about who this person is and how they got in touch with them and what they have told them about themselves. Also, try to explain how easy it is for people to lie about things like age, status, nationality etc. online, because you are not face-to-face with the person you are talking to.
7. Set rules and age boundaries
Agree on what websites, social networking sites and games your children are allowed to visit and use. Remember that age limits are there to keep your child safe, and do not let yourself feel under pressure to let your child sign up to things or view content that you feel they are still too young for.
Remember to set up parental controls (there are many to choose from), and keep these activated. Software is also available to help you filter, restrict or monitor what your children can access online. Remember though that these restrictions often stop working when your child is outside of the home and is using public Wi-Fi to connect to the internet.
8. Talk about cyberbullying, privacy and online reputation
Statistically, being bullied online is the single most common online harm most children will experience. A rapidly increasing number of children receive harassing, hateful or insulting messages via channels like e-mail, social networking sites, instant messages or videos. Make sure your children know that they should avoid replying to these threats, insults and comments, and instead report it, both to teachers, parents as well as directly to the channels it was sent through.
It is also important that you discuss with your children how they can avoid putting themselves at risk of harm caused by themselves. This can involve doing things such as sexting (sending sexual content by photo, video, or text message), posting information or images of a private, embarrassing, or controversial nature, or even just neglecting to set privacy settings. This also rings through of posting or commenting or becoming affiliated with anything that can not only be of harm to them at present, but can also travel into the future and self-sabotage academic achievements, careers or even romantic futures.
How are YOU keeping your kids safe online, parents? Let us know your rules, tricks and parenting hacks!