For parents in the digital age, one of the most ever-present concerns is internet safety. How can you keep your kids safe online? Today, this means protecting their identities, keeping them safe from predators, and helping them avoid mistakes that will follow them into the future.
To help you make the right choices during this Child Safety Week (June 4-10) and along the whole year, ZoneAlarm has put together 10 tips inspired by interviews with some experts on internet and cyber security, published by Safety.com news portal. They were supposed to answer the question: “What’s your most important tip for parents to keep their children safe online?”
1) Have an ongoing conversation about technology
Show that you understand the important role technology and the internet play in their lives. Studies have shown that children often won’t go to parents when something bad happens online because they think mom or dad won’t understand, or will take away their phone or computer. It’s hard to keep kids safe when they’re not letting you into their digital life.
In these ongoing conversations, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to comment, teach, and reinforce your family’s values and behavioral expectations, to help your children learn to be more thoughtful and responsible technology users.
2) Develop a relationship of trust with your kids
Talk about the websites they go to, about how to avoid ads/enticements, about how to be polite to others when communicating online, about how to respond to personal questions from others, and generally all those things adults know about human relationships that kids don’t know yet.
Kids may be smarter about how to use technology, but adults are much more savvy about how to handle relationships. Use open communication so that they will come to you when they encounter a problem, without worrying that you’ll ban them from their technology.
3) Try not to freak out if your child tells you something ‘weird’
Listen to your child and do not freak out if he tells you someone is bothering him online, making him feel uncomfortable or that he clicked on a link that led them to a porno site. Once again — kids and teens are usually afraid they will be punished if they do go to their parents. So keep an open mind, listen and try to resolve the situation – it’s not your child’s fault. Help them!
4) Help your child learn how to socialize online safely
Yes, online actions have consequences. Emphasize that once they post something, they can’t take it back. Tell kids to limit what they share. Help them understand what information should stay private — like their address, phone numbers, family financial information, social security number, etc. Encourage online manners. Suggest that they Cc: and Reply all: with care.
Limit access to your kids’ profiles. Use privacy settings, create a safe screen name, and review their friends list to include only people they actually know.
5) Don’t underestimate your child when it comes to safety
Very young children need close supervision and close parental involvement but, as they get older, kids need freedom to. Ask your teen what they think about safety, privacy and security. Don’t quiz them but ask them in a genuine way like you would approach a good friend or perhaps an expert because, chances are, they know a lot about these issues.
6) Teach the “net does not forget” rule
With the internet being an open book, parents need to guard their children’s online privacy as the “net does not forget” anything that a child may say, do or post online. Parents can always google their children’s names once a month and discuss any inappropriate findings with their children. This helps protect their children’s online safety and also helps ensure that their digital trail will not harm them in the future.
7) Parents are kids’ first line of defense
Most every answer to the question of what should we do to keep our kids safe online comes from the online world. The lack of understanding of the technology that drives the online world is likely the single most common reason why parents tend to shy away from thinking they can keep their kids safe online.
Engage with your children and become lean forward parents. Kids love to teach as much as they love to learn. Why not hold a technology learning class every week where you are the student and your child is the teacher?
8) Remember REPs (Respect, Educate and Protect)
Teach Respect when using technology. This way the issues of cyberbullying will decrease significantly. Children need to keep in mind their reputation when posting anything, and be reminded that there are others on the other side of that text, post or tweet. You must also Educate them on how the technology works before jumping out and using it. Save yourself the headache of regretting not having known more about that new technology, app or social network. And finally, Protect them when posting information in a social network or post.
9) Don’t assume you know enough to keep them safe
Never hand over an internet-connected device before you know how it works. Some of the worst cases of pedophilia and cyber bullying have happened soon after the parent blindly handed over a mobile device or PC without looking into the restrictions that each device comes with. The parents also hadn’t set boundaries with their child so that they had to ask permission before downloading new apps.
Get familiar with what your kids are doing online. Learn new skills about what you can do to keep them safe! Please don’t wait until your child have a nasty episode that could haunt them for the rest of their lives. Act before it happens, and don’t assume you know enough to keep them safe.
10) Teach, remind your kid about digital reputation
Technology is a huge catalyst on how children socialize, communicate and academically learn. Always remind your child that they are “somebody” that matters in the real world and that also applies to the cyber world. This means that when they create an online “name” and share information online as it pertains to their hobbies, likes and dislikes… this information matters.
All parents are concerned about their child’s safety and most importantly how others perceive them. In the online world this is called “digital reputation.” As parents our job is to guide and protect our children. As our children get older, and become more independent, our parental guidance and direction matures as well. The same methodology applies on and off line.
Children must be taught that they need to look out for others when using technology. Parents need to help their children to make good decisions that keep themselves safe and help others. If everyone works together in this process, the whole family will benefit.