Kids are online. That’s just a fact. There is no way to stop it, and there is no point in trying. But what we can (and most definitively must) do, is to make sure they are aware of the repercussions of their online presence. It is our responsibility to help them understand the security measures they have to take in order to protect themselves.
Make sure to periodically monitor social media and Internet usage in general, both at home and at school. Review all the content your kids post and consume and be sure to follow all their social media accounts. Take the time to check that you know who each and every one of their contacts are, as well as the contacts of their contacts (and the contacts of the contacts of their contacts… you get the idea).
But (and this is a big one) DO NOT spy them. Don’t be sneaky because they will know. Talk openly about why you need to be aware of the kind of content they are exposed to and that you will be periodically checking. Do it on their presence and don’t turn it into an inquisition.
Remind your children that EVERYTHING they post online stays on the web FOREVER. Even when they delete the content. And forever is a long time. The implications for the future are huge and must be considered always.
On the same subject, their online behavior should reflect who they really are (kind, compassionate, respectful, responsible…). They must be polite and never harass or troll since there are real people with real feelings on the other side of the screen.
(And no, it won’t backfire, because we have already established on our previous blog post the importance of trust and communication; especially when it comes to security.)
We cannot stress enough how vital it is to teach your kids to keep their passwords, home address, email addresses, and other personal information private. They should avoid sharing personal data over social media, SMS, and email and by no means enter that info into websites, no matter how legit they may seem. If their activities lead them to some sort of signing, they should stop and have you take over.
Help them choose usernames that won’t reveal their real names (@puppy_luv4eva is preferable to @Sadie_Smith07) and remind them that photos and videos can reveal information as well, so they must be very careful when uploading that kind of content.
Educate your children about the dangers of the Internet. Even a 5 year old child can understand cybersecurity, phishing, and malware if you do your research and use the terms in an age appropriate way. Don’t underestimate their capabilities. After all, they have been using the internet since a younger age than when you started using it.
There are several parental control settings and apps that you can use to limit access and protect your children's internet use. Do some research and you will definitively find one that suits your family’s needs.
And of course, our last tip (but not the least important by any means) is to encourage your kids to enjoy their lives beyond the screens. Take them outside; go to the park, collect some rocks and sticks and pine cones. Take a trip to the library and touch real books, or go pet some cows at your local farm. The world is a wonderful place, and there is knowledge, enjoyment, and fun everywhere.
Using computers, tablets, or cellphones is part of your children’s life. Acquiring computer literacy early is not just good, but necessary for their proper performance in today's society. However, they are young and still unexperienced and may be overly trusting. They depend on us to keep them safe both by supervising their online presence and by educating them on the best security practices.