Protecting your child is a not a new concept, but protecting your child’s online activity is an ever-evolving task. Now that most things take place online, including your child’s social life, it’s important to make sure both you and your child are aware of the dangers that lurk on the Internet. With the New Year in full swing, now is a great time to start off on the right foot by addressing these concerns with your kids.
While the web is a great source of information, fun, and games, there also exist many threats to your child’s safety. Online sexual predators stalk chat rooms and social media profiles attempting to engage your child in inappropriate dialogue or worse. The bullying that was once relegated to the playground now happens through Facebook posts and tweets, damaging kids’ reputations and self-esteem. The popularity of social media has also spurred other problems online. As younger generations blur the line between their private and public lives by over-sharing personal info, cybercriminals use this information to commit ID theft (including the theft of children’s social security numbers, a problem on the rise). In addition to this type of fraud, hackers eager to disseminate malware also target kids through phony ads and links.
All this means talking about online issues should be a priority in your household this year. Adopt these resolutions to keep your kids safe in 2012:
Discuss Online Dangers. Talk to your child about the potential dangers they could encounter online from sexual predators, cybercriminals, and social communication, encouraging them to interact wisely and report any concerning issues to you.
Set and Reinforce Internet Rules. Make sure your child is adhering to your own household rules — and those of the websites they visit. As a good rule of thumb, don’t allow them to download or install anything without your consent and for teens, forbid any illegal downloading of music, video, or software.
Enable Safe Searches: To minimize the risk of your child stumbling across violent, pornographic, or malware-infected content while searching, activate search-engine filters or purchase parental control tools that filter searches and limit access to inappropriate sites.
Bookmark Websites for Young Children. If your child frequently visits specific sites, bookmark these URLs for easy access. This prevents your kid stumbling across inappropriate content while searching or mistyping.
Teach Kids to Spot Scams. Point out the telltale signs of scams such as email offers or pop-up ads that encourage you to download or “click here” for free games, products, or music.
Review Social Media Conduct. Encourage your kids to carefully consider what content they post, including photos and videos, and remind them that anything they post is permanent and can affect their reputation. Also remind them never to post or share personal information (e.g., address, phone number, etc.) online.
Filter Contact Lists. Periodically review your child’s contact lists to ensure their online networks are appropriate, and monitor their privacy settings to control who can see their profile or other online accounts.
Encourage Appropriate Online Communication. Whether on social networking sites, chatting, or emailing, kids should only communicate with people they know personally. Tell them to trust their gut, and let you know if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable.
Defend Against Cyberbullying. Talk to your kid about the importance of respectful online communication. Review your child’s online activity to ensure they are not being victimized or victimizing others, and report any concerning activity to authorities, including school officials or law enforcement.
Limit Online Time. Although the Internet can be useful and educational, it’s best to limit screen time. Designate an allotted amount of time per day or “access hours” for them to be online, such as before or after school.
Promoting online safety in your household is something every responsible parent should do, and an important part of the process is keeping yourself educated. Stay abreast of the latest news in the online security world, and always encourage an open dialogue with your child.