School’s out for summer! Kids and teens are spending more time on the internet playing their favorite games as well as connecting with friends through various types of social media. It’s important to remember that these video games, chat-rooms and social media platforms all expose children to potential risk, as they are often targets of cybercrime. We have a few useful tips to help you navigate the topic of online safety with your kids.
1. Talk to them often.
Ask your kids about their personal experiences on the internet. Do they know what websites are safe? Have they had a negative experience on social media? Make sure your children are comfortable telling you when something goes wrong. The best way to defend their cyber-safety is open communication. Start the dialogue about internet safety with your kids at a young age.
2. Differentiate between safe and unsafe sites.
If your child is old enough to navigate the internet freely, have conversations about the differences between safe and unsafe websites. Teach your kids to recognize the warning signs. Sites that have concerning pop-ups, are abnormally slow-functioning or look illegitimate can be risky. If they click on any links it could exposes your family’s personal information. Teach them to pay attention to the links they are visiting. A secure website will always begin with “https” rather than “http”.
If your children are young, consider setting parental controls on your devices. It’s important that you discuss the reason for these restrictions with your children. Most internet service providers will allow you to restrict screen time, websites, pop-ups etc. These controls give you the opportunity to limit your child’s exposure to unsafe websites.
3. Teach them good habits.
According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of kids ages 12-17 actively use the internet. Your teen may want to share photos of their vacation or chat with friends over the summer break. The internet is a great way to stay connected. While it’s fun to use these social sites, there are some essential privacy points to make your kids aware of, such as:
- Don’t add strangers on social media. Let you children know the risks of adding people they don’t know as friends. They could potentially expose themselves and anyone else they befriend online to identity theft, phishing and personal safety risks.
- Think before you post. Remind them that once something is posted online, it’s out there forever. In addition, have open conversations about the risks of sending inappropriate pictures or engaging in sexual conversations online.
- Be vague about where you live or go to school. Remind your child to never give out their personal information, specifically their address or where they go to school.
- Show them how to edit their privacy settings on social platforms to ensure that only their friends and family can access their photos and posts. In addition, have a conversation about the risks of posting their photos and information publicly.
- Let them know about the potential risk of someone creating a profile using their likeness and posting inappropriate or hurtful content. Impersonation is present on all social media platforms and cybercriminals are always searching for new ways to target victims.
It can be difficult to know where to start when talking about online safety with your kids, but by keeping the conversation open and talking to them often you can increase the likelihood that they will come to you if something goes wrong.