Summer is finally here, but there’s a not-so-fun part of summer vacation that can have lasting, serious consequences if your child isn’t prepared to avoid the threat.
Whether it’s more time staying up late at night, more screen time on computers or mobile devices, maybe even a new device—your kids might suddenly be faced with new internet dangers. It’s important to make sure your kids are prepared to spot potential digital danger and know how to handle themselves, especially when you’re not there. Covering everything from online predators to privacy settings to cyberbullying to identity theft can be daunting, so here’s how to get started:
Setting Rules and Boundaries
There are probably rules at your house. Setting limits on screen time, explaining what websites they can visit, and making sure they know not to download content from untrustworthy sources are all great first steps towards making the internet a safer place for them. If you think just setting Facebook posts to “private” is all your kids need, you’re setting them up for problems. It’s important to know what social media platforms your kids are using (hint: it’s probably not Facebook) and how those sites work. If you don’t know the potential privacy pitfalls, how can you teach your kids to avoid them?
Make Mobile Privacy Hands-On
Do you know how your kids’ internet-capable devices operate? If you’re not enabling the strictest security settings and app permissions on your kids’ phones, tablets, and laptops, the end result could be hacking and identity theft. Help your kids avoid dangers like connecting over public Wi-Fi, opening attachments or clicking links in messages and emails, and malicious software that hides in pop-up boxes, claiming your computer is infected with a virus.
No Mistake Stays Hidden for Long
For far too many young victims of Internet-related dangers, a key problem is discovery. Things like bullying, sexting, and sextortion, and even more serious issues all work because they play off of the victim’s fear of being found out. Make sure your kids understand there is nothing they can do on the internet that you cannot help them undo if they’ll just come to you.
Perhaps the single most important thing you can do as a parent is communicating, no matter what the issue is at hand. When it comes to cyber safety and responsible device use, recurring conversations are crucial to your child’s security and privacy. Keep the conversation open, light, and ongoing, and remember that when it comes to raising safe kids who become knowledgeable adults, there’s no such thing as a once-and-done chat.