Tips to Protect Kids in a Digital Age

Maribeth WardTech Tips0 Comments

With the start of school, it’s always a good idea to review some of the safety risks the Internet poses for children. While it provides an opportunity for kids to learn, explore their world and socialize with friends, the Internet can pose a threat to our children. By understanding what they might face, you can educate, empower and protect yourself – and them – to have safer, more meaningful online experiences.

Educate Your Children and Yourself
Learn how kids use the Internet by spending time with them in the digital world. Remind kids that “virtual safety” is just as important as “real world safety”. Remember, unlike conventional media, the Internet is interactive, giving us all the opportunity to interact with anyone. And, those you are interacting with might not be who they say they are.

Safety First
Teach kids the value of privacy. Encourage them to protect their passwords and personal information just like they would if it were a diary or journal. If possible, keep the computer in a common area of the house and set reasonable limits on computer usage. Show them how to use privacy settings to restrict who has access to or can post on their social networking profiles, blogs and other accounts. Use monitoring and filtering software that restricts what websites they can visit and tracks where they’ve been.

Enforce Age Appropriate Online Experiences
Children under 8 need direct supervision while online and should have restrictions on what websites they can visit. Kids from 8 – 12 should have more freedom, but a trusted adult should still be close by. And, they need to have privacy settings at their highest levels. Teens have more internet access with mobile phones and school computers which is why it’s important to set rules early and encourage ongoing conversations about what they are doing online.

Talk About Appropriate Online Conduct
Ongoing, frequent communication is vital to keeping kids safe. Talk to your kids about what appropriate online conduct looks like – how much of it mirrors safe, responsible real-world behavior. Encourage a “think before you post” attitude – and discuss consequences. Write down the rules and keep them near the computer. Encourage their questions. Invite conversation.

Get – and Stay Involved
Share your Internet safety plan with other parents. Stay alert to changes in your children’s behavior – are they becoming secretive about computer time? Don’t hesitate to ask them what they are doing, who they are talking to and what sites they are visiting.

Make sure you understand how, when and where to report suspicious behavior online. FaceBook has a Parent Guide, the FBI also offers A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety. You can always Google “How to Report Suspicious Behavior on the Internet” and find plenty of information. Most importantly, be alert and stay involved.

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