As parents, we want to do everything we can to keep our children safe and out of harm’s way, from looking both ways when crossing the street to always wearing a helmet when cycling. However, are we doing enough to protect them from bullies, predators, and stumbling across inappropriate content online?
Let’s face it, the internet is here to stay and with an ever-increasing amount of teens using apps on their smartphones, there’s always time to have regular discussions regarding cyber safety, if you don’t already provide those reminders to your loved ones.
In this article, iStratus provides some handy tips for your parenting toolkit.
Be Open and Honest About Online Activity
It’s important to be informed. Have discussions with your kids about what apps they are using, what they are reading, watching, and who they are communicating with online – and keep the conversation going. Use iStratus to create a list, and look at them together. It’s essential to always remind them that this may be different for other parents and their children.
The bottom line? Listening and reaching an agreement about what is right for your family is what matters most. The internet and smartphones are everywhere, there’s no avoiding them.
We need to reflect on our online reputation too if we want our kids to consider how they behave, interact with people and represent themselves in a public forum. They must always remember that these spaces aren’t private.
Who Are Your Children’s Friends Online?
As grown adults, we recognize that people aren’t always who they say they are online. Truthfully, young people can be alarmingly naïve about whom they are chatting to or connecting with if they are not taught to be cyber-wise from the onset.
iStratus suggests, becoming friends with your child’s social media circles and ensuring you monitor posts. There may be resistance to this but that can be a set condition for them to have online access.
Similarly, Stay #SocialMediaNetworkSavvy
Educate yourself on what social media networks and apps your children are using and use them as well. Remind your kids regularly about the privacy settings and reporting mechanisms on social networks. And being aware of what constitutes online bullying – both as a perpetrator and a victim.
Every photograph and personal detail that is posted and shared on social media and the internet contributes to someone’s digital footprint. The biggest risk with this is that once information is shared publicly, it can be used in untoward ways not necessarily expected.
Assume that anything that is put online is permanent (it can be deleted, but not necessarily before others have seen it or saved it). As parents, it’s our job to encourage our children to ask themselves before posting anything online if the information being shared (for example, their name, phone number, address, name of school, email) or a photo is something they would give a stranger. If the answer is no, then don’t post it.
If your child uses social networks, be sure they know how to:
- Report inappropriate and/or offensive posts
- Block someone
- Keep posts set to “Private Between Friends” and not “Public.”
Use iStratus filing and folder systems to stay in control of your digital footprint, keep it all secure by only sharing important or personal information with people known and trusted.
Protect Privacy: Keep Locations Private
Most apps, networks, and devices have geotagging features, which reveal your whereabouts publicly and can lead someone directly to you. These features should be switched off for obvious privacy and safety reasons. Digital photographs also contain metadata (referencing the time, date, and GPS coordinates), which may reveal more than planned. Some social media platforms automatically hide or remove these details, but not all do, thus investigate these settings and be fully aware of how much info is being shared.
“The definition of privacy has changed – kids are more comfortable baring their souls online, but they don’t think about the consequences or permanence of the Internet.”
~ Elizabeth Wilkins, Editor, at Empowering Parents.com
Leading by Example is Key
Modeling the kind of positive online behavior we would like our children to use is fundamental. If they witness influential adults in their world being cautious and respectable while online, then they are more likely to follow in those footsteps. And, yes, this also includes limiting your own screen time.
Finally, the point is not to instill fear in our children or prevent them from experiencing the many educational, social, and entertainment benefits of the Internet, Social Media, or Apps. Rather, we must provide them with the skills and knowledge they require to make the most of the pluses while avoiding the dangers.
There’s no doubt we’ll all sleep better by regularly discussing these points upon our checklists today.