I recently spoke to a group of parents, educators, and IT professionals about online safety and kids. After my presentation, we had some very interesting conversations about what kids are doing online and the dangers that they face.
In this blog post, I will mention some key things that were mentioned in my workshop that parents can do to keep their children safe online.
TALK TO YOUR CHILD
The number one thing you can do to keep your child safe is to talk to them early and often. I am a fan of monitoring. There are all types of technology you can use to monitor your child’s computer, tablet or smartphone. However, nothing beats having a relationship with your child that includes open and honest communication. Let your child know that he or she can come to you and talk about anything.
If you do not have the right type of relationship with your child, what is to stop her from going next door and using the Internet where there are no parental controls at all?
SET RULES AND BOUNDARIES
Talk to your child about what is and is not appropriate online behavior. What type of language is acceptable? Do you want them to use chat rooms? Can your child have his tablet or phone in his bedroom at night? What types of pictures are inappropriate to share with and receive from friends?
TRUE STORY MOMENT: There is a school where I live that I am very familiar with. A few years ago, a group of about ten 5th graders had what they called an “Online Club.” Each night for about a month, in their respective bedrooms, they would go online at 10pm. They were not doing research for a school project. They went to a particular porn website. The next day in school they would talk about what they had seen the night before.
DON’T SHARE PERSONAL INFORMATION
Often you never know who you are really talking to online. You may think you are talking to a fellow 16 year old that means you no harm, but you are really talking to a 50-year old child predator. Even if you know who you are talking to, it is not wise to give out:
Your full name
School you go to
Even if you know not to give out your personal information, you may do so inadvertently. Make sure you check the privacy settings of each website to which your child subscribes.
Parental Control software allows you to monitor your child’s online activity. Depending on the frequency you set, you will automatically receive an email activity report of what your child said, pictures that were sent and websites they visited.
BE WHERE YOUR KIDS ARE
You need to know what sites your kids are using and have your own account at the same sites. It’s difficult to protect your child from something you don’t know about. I have spoken with parents that also have all of their kids’ usernames and passwords.
KNOW THE LINGO
Some children use online acronym slang. It is hard to police something if you don’t know what you are looking at.
TRUE STORY MOMENT:
A young lady was planning a fight using Facebook. When her parents were at work, she and her friends were going to get together and fight another group of kids. Her mom walked by the computer as the girl was planning this and did not say anything to the child. Why? The mom did not know what she was looking at. The young lady used a lot of online acronyms.
Of course you know what LOL, BFF and OMG mean. How about LMIRL, GNOC, ASL?
Social networking sites and apps are cool. Depending on how they are used, they can have some real consequences. More and more college admission offices and corporate HR departments are checking online profiles. The first stop is usually Facebook. Depending on what they find, your child may not get into the school of their choice or be hired for the job they REALLY want.
KEEP UP WITH TECHNOLOGY
I know technology changes very quickly and it can be almost like having a part-time job keeping up. Surely your child is worth your best effort. There is no need to spend hours scouring the Internet for the latest popular website or online danger. Subscribe via email to 1- 3 very informative sites that talk about online safety. When these sites post new articles, you will automatically receive that information in your inbox.
IT IS PERMANENT
Once you press send you have lost control over what you just typed or the picture you just took. It may be months or years down the road, but you never know what you did may resurface on someone’s computer, tablet, smartphone or server.
WHAT’S HOT (right now)
Below is a list of some of the more popular websites and apps among young people today.
GOOGLE+ (Kids seem to be moving from Facebook to Google + because there are less parents snooping around.)
ASK.FM (Increasingly used for cyber bullying)