As our children say goodbye to the school year and hello to summer, now is the perfect time to set some technology ground rules and expectations. While we all become increasingly aware of the physical and mental health effects of too much screen time, there are a number of other online threats that target children and teens which make their personal data and identity information stored within connected devices vulnerable.

For Safer Internet Month (celebrated each year in February), we discussed how the rates of educational data breaches, student spyware attacks, and child identity theft cases are growing at a steady pace. Now, for Internet Safety Month (celebrated each year during the month of June), we will discuss how educators, parents, and children all have the ability to reduce this rate by following some simple security and screen-free strategies. As most parents will tell you, the key to a successful screen-free or internet safety routine is disconnecting devices and unplugging together as a family.

Here are some safety strategies your family can use to keep your internet connected devices, stored information, and online data secure.

Host a family meeting to discuss internet best practices

A proven successful communication strategy, family meetings can also allow parents and children to voice their opinions, share concerns, and educate each other in a nurturing and supportive environment. Although this forum allows children to discuss their concerns, it’s essential that parents stand firm on the matter. Regularly realigning your family’s priorities in order to reduce tech dependence is not only healthy, it’s recommended. Below are a few topics this conversation should cover.

Limiting Tech Usage: Establishing a rule that outlines how much time your kids can spend using an internet connected device, computer, or gaming console in a given day, week, or month presents parents with the opportunity to discuss what it means to limit technology use, why it’s important, and how it helps ensure the security and wellbeing of the entire family.

Websites, Apps, and Attachments: Children and teens should be trained on spotting safe and secure sites, trusted apps, and how to browse using a search engine. Parental control settings and content filters that block search results, adult websites, and harmful apps are always recommended; however, they must be protected with a new and unique password.

Downloading files from an unknown source including websites, emails, and even 3rd party app stores can introduce malicious viruses and spyware, and in severe cases, they can completely lock users out of their devices.

Pro Tip: Check out iKeepSafe’s Certified Products page for websites, apps, and tech products that have earned iKeepSafe Data Privacy Badges. The products listed on this page have been assessed by iKeepSafe’s Data Privacy Experts and are compliant with US privacy regulations.

Online Accounts, Device, and Data Security: Talk about how important it is to have strong and unique passwords, how to properly care for devices, and data security protocol. Almost everything lies behind one or a few passwords, so it’s essential that everyone, especially children, are aware of the consequences of a stolen device or breached password.

Two-factor authentication settings help users and parents protect their passwords by requesting a second from of authenticity (e.g. an email or text message). Criminals can also gain access to vulnerable devices through unsecure home and public Wifi networks, routers, and devices. Onced stolen information is combined with public online data like that from a social media account, hackers can answer security questions, change passwords, and gain access to private information that allows them to commit acts of identity theft against adults and against children.

Furthermore, scheduling regular screen-free time reduces exposure, and gives parents the opportunity to refresh parental controls and make any necessary updates to connected devices and security software.

Cover the sensitive topics

As busy parents, it can be difficult to notice the little things, especially when they happen online. Did you know that approximately one in every three children between the ages of 12 and 17 have been cyberbullied? Hiding behind a screen, bullies and cyber criminals alike target vulnerable individuals and information. If left unaddressed, cyberbullying can significantly impact school performance, cause social anxiety, or worse.

Although potentially uncomfortable, discussing the risks and dangers of cyberbullying, cyberstalking, sexting, and online dating are critical conversations to have. Remember, the sooner your children know the dangers, the faster they’ll be able to avoid or proactively address a threat in the future. To learn more about having this discussion with your child, this interactive tool presented by the National PTA is a great resource.

Screen-free tips:

Use Security Settings to Your Advantage: Enable parental controls and use website, search, and content filters protected by extremely unique passwords. Avoid saving passwords in your browser or writing them down. Instead, try using a secure password management app.

Start in Phases: A family meeting allows you to establish the ground rules that keep your screen-free goals on track. Eliminating one or a few devices at a time not only makes the transition easier, but is a great way to make your child mindful of their technology dependence.

Make an Activity Schedule: During your first family meeting, ask individuals to write down some activities they’d love to do. After having them write down ideas for themselves and for the family, schedule events that reward their screen-free success.

Get Involved, Join a Club, or Volunteer: Getting involved in your local community, joining a club, going to summer camp, or volunteering your free time is a great way to bring your family closer to your community.