Raising Digitally-Safe Kids in the Era of Sharing Everything

In this day and age, the number one entertainment source for kids seems to reside online. The internet provides children with a fun place to learn via a wide variety of technological devices, most even portable. However, giving your kids free reign on the internet can put them, your computer/mobile device and your personal data at risk. Just like kids learn how to be safe when engaging in the real world, it’s important for parents to teach their kids how to be safe and secure online as well. There are a few key ways to ensure that your kids become great digital citizens (1).

Stay engaged with your kids’ online environment. Pay attention to the websites they visit and show interest in their participation in online communities. When they come across inappropriate material, or something that doesn’t seem safe, react constructively. Turn this mistake into a teachable moment so they’ll learn how to do better next time.

Protect your computer. Make sure your computer and mobile devices are set up with a security suite that updates automatically. Enable firewalls and invest in anti-virus software.  Keeping the system up-to-date will protect your kids and your computer from running into viruses. It’s also important to back up your computer files, just in case something goes wrong while your kids are surfing the web.

Create a separate profile for each member of the house. Children should have a standard account with very basic privileges. This will prevent them from changing system settings, deleting documents and other data, and viewing private information. Additionally, it prevents them from having access to your online accounts if you save your login and credit card information in your browser settings. Employ the Family Safety feature on their profile if your operating system supports this functionality. 

Manage your online privacy settings. Major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have functions which allow you to better manage your child’s online activity, including parental controls. This grants you the ability to monitor how long they’re online and the content they can view. While this will allow you to check up on your kids’ browsing history at home, remember that home isn’t the only place they go online. It’s best to review the privacy settings on your child’s social media accounts and mobile devices frequently in order to provide the right amount of protection your child needs. This decision can be one you make with your child, so they learn different ways they can protect their identity online.

Support good online behavior. When your kids start showing developmental progress, don’t be afraid to expand their online experience. This will help grow their knowledge of safe and secure online behavior. However, continue to be vigilant with monitoring their accounts.  

Teach the kids the ins and outs of being online. Help them learn to identify safe versus unsafe websites as well as teach them to be careful about links they click on and/or download from.  Also, explain to them the internet lasts a lifetime: anything they post can be posted almost anywhere, and you can’t take it back. Teach them how to respect their friends’ personal information online, and help them learn the benefits and consequences of sharing online so they know how to engage in a smart way.

Deal with sensitive situations together. Empower your child to handle troubling situations like cyberbullying and hurtful or unwanted comments. Create preventative strategies and warn them not to retaliate online. Make sure they agree to either talk peacefully with the aggressor, or to block or report them if trouble arises. Encourage them to be digital leaders!

Stay up-to-date with what’s hot online. The internet and current social media craze changes more and more every day. One day it’s Facebook, the next day it’s Snapchat. Be sure to stay up-to-date with all the latest trends so you can help your kids be protected on these new services.

For more information, check out this list of tips put together by the National Cyber Security Alliance.

References:

  1. National Cyber Security Alliance. (2017). Raising Digital Citizens. Retrieved from https://staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/for-parents/raising-digital-citizens.

Last updated: July 12, 2017