Summer vacation is here for many families around the valley and that could mean much more screen time and online time for kids. Much of that time could potentially be unsupervised as well, which means parents need to be extra diligent to teach kids internet safety and the importance of proper behavior online.
While the Internet can be a great source of fun and social interaction for kids, it can also be a dangerous place. Home may be the safest place for your kids but the more time they spend online the more they could potentially be exposed to inappropriate content and other online dangers.
Don’t fret, there are steps parents can take to help keep your kids safe when online this summer. Tips from the Department of Homeland Security include:
- Don’t share too much information. Create a list of things your kids should never post or share online, like their birthday and year, full name, address, and phone number, and make sure they understand why it is important to keep this information private.
- Be careful about what you post. The Internet isn’t private. Once your kids share a post, picture, or video, they can’t control how others will use it, and it can never be permanently deleted. Tell them to be thoughtful and cautious with what they post and share online.
- Only connect with people you know. “Don’t talk to strangers” is a good rule for the real world and the cyber world. Predators and stalkers can easily create fake profiles to hide their identities, so instruct your kids to only connect with friends they actually know in real life. Also check your children’s privacy settings to make sure strangers can’t see their profiles. Sometimes privacy settings get reset to default settings during program updates, so check their profiles regularly.
- Keep your location private. Many apps, networks, and devices have geo-tagging features which broadcast your location. This information could lead a stalker directly to your kids, so check that these features are completely off.
- Protect your password. Show your kids how to create strong passwords and make sure they know to never share them with anyone.
Parents also need to watch for warning signs of kids being targeted by an online predator including spending long hours online at night, phone calls from people you don’t know, kids suddenly turning off the computer when you walk into a room or withdrawal from family life and activities that aren’t online.
Keeping 100% track of what your kids are doing online isn’t always feasible but there are ways to keep them safe even when you aren’t around.