Staying Safe on the Internet
The explosive growth of social media programs and their ever downward reach into more youthful audiences is compounding the problem of internet safety. Kids' access to the internet has never been greater and will only expand in the future, as more and more mobile devices 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 personal information, and they are often unaware that what they put out can be preserved on the internet forever. They are also more trusting of what they read and see online than adults.
Fortunately, there is help.
As with most things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To help parents protect their kids when they venture online, the CyberBully Hotline has published the following simple tips:
- 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 other issues, for that matter).
- Limit use of PCs and mobile devices in all unsupervised areas. Don't let young kids have access to devices in their bedrooms or after bedtime hours. Offer more flexibility with older children. The less unsupervised access and late night access, the safer your kids will be.
- Check with your network providers about parental controls.
- Monitor your phone and text history to see when your kids are texting. Look for late night or early morning calls or texts.
- Check your internet browsing history. See what websites your kids have been on. Make sure the cookie settings are enabled.
- Keep personal profiles private. Follow the safety guidelines offered by popular sites. For example, you can find Facebook's safety guides here: http://www.facebook.com/safety
- Keep kids offline 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 numbers, email addresses, school names, street addresses, community names, ages, and other forms of family and personal information can be leveraged by predators to gain a child's trust. Ensure that your child isn't sharing this information online.
- Parents must have a child's password. Remind your child to keep their passwords private; they should NOT give their passwords to friends.
- Watch for changes in behavior. Sudden declines in time spent online, sudden increases in fatigue, and missed meals are all signs that they are up at all hours texting when they should be sleeping.
- Be a good online citizen and refrain from doing things that hurt other people or break the law.
Follow these steps and your children will have a more productive, safe, and enjoyable online experience.
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