June is National Internet Safety Month

On May 15th Congress passed an Act naming June National Internet Safety Month to help draw national attention to the issues of cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, identity theft and other unwanted and harmful acts that can befall online victims.

The explosive growth of social media programs like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others, and theirever downward reach into more youthful audiences with their immature thought processes and behaviors is compounding the problem of Internet safety. Kid's access to the Internet has never been greater and will only expand in the future as more and more devices from mobile phones to e-book readers are now Internet enabled. Studies show that the adolescent mind does not support the more rigorous thought processes of adults; kids are willing to share more personal information, all the while forgetting that it can be everlasting. They are more trusting of what they read and see online than adults.

But there is help...

As with most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as the old, tried and true saying goes. In honor of Internet Safety Month, the CyberBully Hotline has published the following simple tips that parents can follow to keep their kids safe online.

  • Establish clear Internet use rules upfront-Create a contract with your child, so everyone understands the expectations.
  • Create a climate of trust and support with your child - they need to know that they can come to you with their online issues - and all issues for that matter.
  • Limit use of PC's and mobile devices in all unsupervised areas, especially their bedrooms, or certainly after "bed time" hours. Offer more flexibility with older children. The less unsupervised access and late night access, the better the results.-Check with your network providers about 'Parental Controls'.
  • Check your phone/text history to see when your kids are texting - look for late night or early morning calls/texts.
  • Check browsing history - see what websites your kids have been on. Make sure the 'cookie' settings are enabled.
  • Keep personal profiles "private." Follow the Facebook offered guidelines for safe use of their system: http://www.facebook.com/help/?safety=parents
  • Keep kids off line to start. Busy kids are safe kids; keep kids active and outdoors as much as possible. There are many camps and opportunities to keep kids involved in programs with many free or low cost programs offered through local libraries and municipalities.
  • Remove personal information from posts - phone number, email, school name, address or community, age, family information, and other information which can be leveraged by others.
  • Parents must have a child's password. Remind your child to keep their passwords private. DO NOT give to their friends.
  • Watch for changes in behavior - avoiding being online when they were once very active, sleeping late, missing meals, all signs that they are up at all hours texting when they should be sleeping.
  • Be a Good Online Citizen and do not do anything that hurts other people or is against the law.
    Follow these steps and your children will have a more productive, safe, and enjoyable online experience.

    Additional Resources
    Web Wise Kids: www.webwisekids.org
    National Center for Missing & Exploited Children: www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PublicHomeServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US