Years ago, when my kids were in elementary school, I let one of them play a kid’s game on my computer. Hours later, when I got back on the computer, I had a virus. This was our first of many discussions about cyber safety.
It’s safe to say that the internet is increasingly becoming more of an unsafe place thanks to new cyber threats coming out and child predators finding more sophisticated ways of accessing our children’s accounts. While this frightens parents, it doesn’t seem to stop children from wanting to get online to play games, hang out with friends, or research. Parents must stay ever vigilant in making sure children know the threats that are out there.
As a parent, I have explained the dangers on the internet and what they need to avoid, but is this enough? We say our “Stay Safe Online and Keep Away From Perverts” lecture and send them on their merry way? There is much more that we must explain to them!
Part of having the responsibility of being on the internet is using it safely. These tips are musts for ensuring your kids are staying safe online.
- What you put out into the internet stays there even if you delete it. It is important to understand this and avoid making off-hand comments, bullying statements to other kids, etc. What you put on the internet now will stay on the internet. That means your future boss could read it, your children’s children could read it, so be aware of this.
- Check your basic security to see what is showing up on search engines. Doing a simple Google search on your name, address, etc. to see if your personal information is protected is a great start in making sure your kids are staying safe. Moreover, teach them to keep this information off the internet. That means not adding this to social media accounts. To be clear, kids and teens should not post their email address, physical home address, phone numbers or any information that compromises the safety of the family.
- Use the strictest privacy settings for social media accounts. With 73% of teens and 68% of young adults on social media, it’s hard to avoid. You still have a say in where they “socialize” online, so be present when they are setting up their accounts to ensure their privacy is protected. As well, instruct them not to put personal information out there. For instance, a teen posts a message on Facebook indicating the family is leaving for the weekend and the house will be vacant. If the teen has posted their address at any time on their account, then they have painted a target on themselves and exposed that family to a possible break-in. Asking a trusted friend to see what personal information they can find on your social media accounts can also give you a different perspective and see what others are seeing on your account.
- Change your passwords. Keep your accounts safe from hacking by regularly changing the password. And no matter what you do, don’t use “password” or “12345” as your password. Make your password unpredictable using alphanumeric phrases. Here are some tips for creating an unhackable password.
- Check your computer regularly and search for viruses. Part of being on the internet is ensuring the computer you are using isn’t infected with virus software.
For added safety, use these same tips for cellular phone and text message safety as well. Instruct children not to accept unknown phone numbers. Kids should only answer phone calls and text messages from their contact list.