Allowing your child to have access to the Internet and keeping them safe digitally can be tricky. Here are nine tips to help you weed through it all.
Monitor what your child is doing on social media.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or all three? Figure out what social media platforms your child uses, and then learn how to use it yourself. Make sure they accept your “friend” request so that you can monitor their postings, their pictures, and whom they are “friending.” Remember, kids are very familiar with this technology and can block you from seeing certain photos, posts, and their friend list (see manage privacy settings below). Part of your conditions of them using social media should be that they can’t prohibit you from viewing any content on their account.
Educate your child on the importance of their online reputation.
Most likely, your kids don’t understand that everything they put online will stay online – permanently. After something appears through a social media newsfeed on computer and cell phone screens, there is no way to stop it from being downloaded and further shared. A good rule of thumb – if you wouldn’t want your grandparents or your future boss to see it, then don’t post it.
Manage privacy settings.
Many social media sites allow users to filter who can see what’s on their profile. Facebook will allow you to limit content visibility to only friends, and Twitter allows protected Tweets so people who aren’t following you can’t see what you post. Be sure your child allows only people they know to view their content. And remember – these “friends” may still share or repost content.
Make sure your child is not giving out personal information.
Warn your child about sharing personal information such as his/her home address, school, phone number, or email address with strangers. Also check that photos posted online do not give away information that could compromise your child’s safety, such as visible addresses or vehicle license plate numbers. And if your child is hosting a party, do not let them post the details online – this can lead to unwanted guests.
Limit smartphone use and computer time.
If you are paying for your child’s smartphone and/or Internet access, you can control how often he/she uses it. Make sure they are limited in the hours they spend socializing via social media, just as they would have curfews in the real world.
Prohibit your child from personal meetings with people they meet online.
Make sure that your child never agrees to meet in person with someone they meet online, period. On social media, there is no way to know whether strangers are telling the truth about themselves.
Urge your kids to be wary of links, questionnaires, giveaways and contests.
There are many Internet tricks that can convince kids to give away personal information. Warn your child to never use credit card information or give away bank account numbers without consulting you first.
Be aware of cyber-bullying.
Notify your child’s school immediately if your child reports they are being cyber-bullied. Be sure to get screengrabs – easily obtainable shots of the computer screen — of threatening posts to turn over to school or law enforcement officials.
Talk to your child about sexting and its consequences.
Sexting is the sharing of sexually explicit images, via text message or social media. Among teenagers, sexting images can be shared widely and used to attack, humiliate and cyber-bully those featured in the images. Minors taking, sending, or possessing the sexting images of other minors can be charged with child pornography and sexual exploitation crimes. Victims can face longterm pain and social embarrassment.
Keep the lines of communication open with your kid, offline.
Many children who experience cyber-bullying don’t tell their parents because they’re scared they may lose their online privileges. Many children also don’t tell their parents about unsolicited emails or invitations, especially those of a sexual nature. Be sure that your child knows it’s OK to get you involved if any of these things occur so you can put a stop to them.