Saturday, June 6, 2015

Keeping kids safe online: Step 2

Step 2: Parents, talk to your kids.


As discussed in an earlier posting, the first step in keeping your kids safe online is for parents to educate yourselves. The second step revolves around communicating with your children and educating them in safe Internet practices.

When I was growing up, Mom's message was, "Don't talk to strangers." In the digital age that we live in now, these strangers are anonymous and could be communicating with your child from anywhere in the world. Worse, they are "invisible" to parents. Your child's social network is not just the playground anymore. It is vastly larger and scarier. How do you keep your children from trusting online entities? 

First, if you have not yet watched this 5-minute video, watch it now: Make the Internet Less Scary. In it, Ben Jun convinces parents of the importance of teaching your kids how to maintain communications with you so that if things get bad or scary, your child is comfortable going to you for help. Here are his tips:
  • Teach your kids boundaries. 
  • Make sure your kids know who they are speaking to online and let them know what they can and cannot share.
  • Teach your kids how to set limits, then role play with them to help them gain confidence in maintaining boundaries.
  • Inform them to treat every online conversation (even a SnapChat) as if it's going to be there forever.
  • Teach them to respect what belongs to others (such as digital photos of their friends).
  • Give your kids tools they can use.
Second, read the FBI publication A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety, and discuss it with your spouse or partner. From it, you'll learn to recognize signs that your child might be at risk. If your children have adult siblings, ensure that they read this guide as well. 

Third, talk to your children and explain the risks of online activity to them. The ISC(2) Foundation provides a Top Ten Online Safety Tips for kids. Parents, be sure your kids know these. You can make a game out of memorizing the safety tips, and reward your child for reciting all ten. Do occasional "pop quizzes" at the dinner table to ensure they are still on track.
  1. Keep passwords private
  2. Think before you send
  3. Respect yourself and others
  4. Report bullying
  5. Keep all settings private
  6. Always log off
  7. Never meet an online friend alone
  8. Tell a trusted adult of something makes you feel uncomfortable
  9. Keep personal information private
  10. Use these tips for mobile devices too
Last but not least, make online safety fun for your youngest ones. Have them watch the videos at iKeepSafe.org. Better yet, watch with them, in case they have questions. For kids of reading age, buy these books for them from SavvyCyberKids.org. And keep at it. Keep the communication going, no matter how old your child is.

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