No parent wants their child’s safety to be compromised online or in any other way. Between hackers, online predators, cyberbullying and other web safety issues, it is more important now than ever to remind your kids to stay safe online. It can also be hard if you don’t know what steps to take to make sure they increase their internet security.
Compiled for you is a list of the most important things you should be asking your kids to do to improve their safety and your sanity. These topics are relevant for kids of all ages who have access to the internet.
“Once you post something online, you can’t take it back”
Have a regular conversation with you kids about how once they post something, whether it is a photo, video, or statement that it will live on the internet forever.
Expand on the conversation by explaining that many employers and college recruiters often check out social media platforms like Facebook to see how professional a candidate is. Remind your child to only post content online that won’t damage their reputation; you can always tell them something along the lines, “don’t be posting anything you wouldn’t want me to see or read.”
They may take it more seriously if you explain that just because they remove something they post online doesn’t mean that somebody else hasn’t already made a copy or posted it somewhere else.
“Make sure your privacy settings allow only close friends and family to see your information”
Check-in with your kids to make sure their privacy settings are set on all social media accounts so that only close friends and family members can see their information and what they post. While privacy settings can’t guarantee safety online, they are a great start. If they aren’t sure how, have them check out the account settings section of any platforms they use.
“Have you changed your password lately and is it easy to guess?”
To avoid having any of your child’s online accounts hacked, make sure that they are changing their password regularly and choosing passwords that are not easy to guess. Tell them to choose something that is easy for them to remember, but doesn’t use any of their personal information. Explain that similar to their locker number, passwords are private and should not be shared with anyone.
“Don’t give out or post any personal information online.”
Make sure that your kid’s social media profiles do not reveal too much personal information that may make it easy for online predators to locate them. Information posted online can also be gathered and pieced together as a part of identity theft. While it is still possible to be victimized without posting tons of details about their life, this will improve their chances of staying safe.
“Don’t talk to anyone you don’t know online. Let me know right away if a stranger contacts you.”
Let your kid’s know that online predators are very real and extremely dangerous. “One in five U.S. teenagers who regularly log on to the internet say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the Web” (Puresight, 2011).
Make your expectations clear on how they should handle the situation if it arises. Some kids may be afraid to tell their parents when they receive unwanted contact online. By letting them know that being a victim is not their fault, they may feel more comfortable coming to you in the event they need to.
“If an online offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
There are endless promotional offers online that are trying to collect personal information and get money in any way they can. Make sure your kids know not to sign up for any services without your permission, but more importantly let them know why. If they are older and have their own job and bank account, this might make them resentful. However, if you take the time to have a discussion with them about how your intentions are to prevent them from getting ripped off or taken advantage of online, you will have a better chance of them sincerely listening.
“Turn off the GPS location settings on your phone before posting on social media, and then immediately turn it back on.”
Do your kids know that having their GPS location on when they post to social media leaves them more vulnerable to unwanted online contact? According to Carty (2015), online predators can see your location when posting to sites such as Instagram and because most people take pictures at their home it is easier to find out where they live. Make sure that your kids know to turn the GPS settings back on after making a post to social media in case of emergency.
Now that you know what reminders to give your kids to ensure their online safety, go ahead and get the discussion rolling. Use conversations like these as an opportunity to talk more in-depth about what types of activities your kids are doing online and what your expectations are.