Tuesday, February 9 is Safer Internet Day. This day calls upon all stakeholders to join together to make the internet a safer and better place, especially for children. While online learning varies by household, one commonality is the fact that children are spending more time online, and it’s important parents stay up-to-date on the vulnerabilities that can present. This year’s theme is “Together for a Better Internet,” and with the following tips, we hope to provide you with the tools to do just that.
Top areas of vulnerability that parents should be aware of are: users and content, privacy and data, and hacking and security.
Users and Content – KidsHealth
- Parents should be aware of inappropriate content, cyberbullying, and online predators.
- Using apps and websites where kids interact with one another via chatroom, predators may pose as a child or teen looking to make a new friend. They might prod the child to exchange personal information, such as an address and phone number, or encourage kids to call them, seeing their phone number via caller ID.
- Parents should be aware of what their kids see and hear on the internet, who they meet, and what they share about themselves.
- Speak to your kids.
- Keep an open line of communication and make sure that they feel comfortable turning to you when they have problems online.
- Advise them to avoid questions such as: What school do you go to? What kind of clothes do you like to wear? What are your parents’ names?
- Use tools to protect them.
- Many Internet service providers (ISPs) provide parent-control options. You can also get software that helps block access to sites and restricts personal information from being sent online. Other programs can monitor and track online activity.
- Keep an eye on their online activities.
- Other programs can monitor and track online activity. A list of free online protection software can be found here (Techradar).
Privacy and Data – Consumer Reports
- Establish ground rules and use parental controls.
- Don’t share personal information online.
- Don’t share photos online.
- Don’t follow or friend anyone you don’t know.
- Keep gaming chat just about the game. (All other topics should be viewed as suspicious.)
- Arrange your home for online safety.
- Physical proximity remains a key component in any online parenting plan.
- Place a gaming system or computer used by a child in a communal area of the house where you can casually keep an eye on what’s on the screen.
- Any video conferencing for school or other activities should, if possible, be done in shared spaces rather than bedrooms.
- When class is held in the family room, students should avoid inadvertently including siblings and other family members in the webcam shot. It’s also worth telling them that it’s not appropriate to video chat in clothes that are not allowed at school.
- Maintain some control over your child’s devices by creating a charging station in a communal area and declare a digital curfew in bedrooms in the morning and evening.
- Empower your children with reporting tools.
- Encourage your children to come to you with reports of any disturbing interactions with individuals.
- Most platforms have ways to block or report inappropriate content or behavior, and kids need to understand how to find those tools and use them.
- You should explain not only the process but also when it’s appropriate to employ it, citing real-world examples that are age-appropriate.
Hacking and Security – U.S. Department of Education
- Protect your kid’s identity: Remind your kids never to give out personal information such as full name, home address or telephone number, to anyone they don’t know through email, Twitter, Facebook, online chat rooms or bulletin boards.
- Protect your computer: Regularly updating security software can protect your family against scammers, hackers, and other online threats that can compromise your computer system and, consequently, your family’s financial security and other private information.
- Create unique passwords: For online safety, tell your kids to use different passwords for every online account they have to help prevent others from accessing their personal information. Secure passwords should include elements like symbols, numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and no names or words that others could easily guess.
The internet and its reach will continue to grow, and as parents and guardians, we must work together to stay up-to-date with the ever-evolving resources to keep our children safe and informed while online.