June is Internet Safety Month, and we’d like to highlight some tips for parents and educators.
Teach safety first
Never give a child access to the internet or an internet-connected device without first discussing online safety and etiquette. Some great age-appropriate tools for teaching safety and etiquette can be found at https://www.missingkids.org/NetSmartz.
Know their activity
Know and monitor social media accounts and online activity. Children do not have the right to keep their online activity from their parents. Know their usernames and passwords. If they are younger, maintain their username and passwords and log them in when needed. If the online access is happening at school, make sure that monitoring is in place.
Discuss with your child their online profiles. Have them open their devices for you and show you their applications, and online accounts. Make it a game by saying something like, “Hey, I heard about all these apps at work. Show me what’s on your phone and how to use them so I look cool.” After several eye rolls, they will “tutor” you on how to snap, chat, post, poke, tweet, kick, and swipe. This information is gold, so pay close attention.
Watch for hidden or dangerous apps
While looking at your child’s devices, watch for hidden or dangerous applications like KIK and Snapchat. Some apps disguise themselves as a calculator or something else. Put in a code and it opens hidden applications. Some apps also have ways to hide communications between users. There is no need for your child to have a way to secretly communicate with anyone.
Verify privacy settings
Make sure the privacy settings on the phone and apps are at a level where personal information is best protected and not viewable from unknown profiles. If your child is taking pictures, make sure the location is “off” so that the photos are not geotagged. A geotagged image can be tracked.
Examples of private information that the public should not see:
Your full name
Any type of photograph (even of your pet!)
Your current location (photos can include location data in them)
Home or school address or the address of any of your family or friends
Social Security number
Names of family members
Credit card numbers
Setting boundaries is an important part of staying safe. Set limits. If your child is very young, set limits for them. If they are older, involve them in the conversations. Some limits that need to be discussed include:
The amount of time that can be spent online
The times of day that the child can be online
The types of apps or sites they are allowed to access
The type of information that is allowed and NOT allowed to be shared online (including pictures and personal information).
Discuss with your children what to do if they asked for information that they shouldn’t be providing or if they feel uncomfortable with someone online. Talk about what they should do if they receive threats or if they feel they are being cyberbullied. Having open conversations about these topics, especially before they happen, helps them handle them if they come.