(Truly Scary) Food for Thought Friday: Kids Online

Internet Safety by raynaynae, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  raynaynae 

by Kristie Burk

Happy Halloween!  Are you ready for some truly scary news?

Microsoft surveyed 1,000 parents in 2013 and found that almost all of the parents (94 percent) let their kids use at least one device (computer, mobile phone, and gaming console) or online service (email, social networks, and the like) without supervision.

Parents are understandably overwhelmed with what a child can access via a laptop or mobile device.  Gone are the days when the computer sat at a desk and a parent could look over a child’s shoulder.

It is more important than ever that parents make themselves aware of how they can help protect their children online from truly scary things.  Feel free to share this information with parents – maybe make a handout during parent/teacher conferences or post it on your class website…

To protect children, parents should

  1. Establish rules early on about texting, tweeting, using webcams, etc. There are lots of examples of social media contracts online.  Find one that works for you or develop your own together.
  2. Remind your children about privacy issues.  They should never give out identifying information or location. If your child is tweeting, “Going to Regal to see ‘Book of Life’,” he could be asking for trouble.
  3. Follow or friend your child wherever he or she may go online.
  4. If your children play online video games, ask to watch for a while.  If they have voice chat during the game, make sure you know with whom they are chatting.
  5. Explain to children that even if they use a service like Snapchat that promises to delete their photos after a few seconds, people can still take a screenshot of the photo and keep it forever.
  6. Monitor your children’s texts, but understand that they’ve probably worked out a secret language to keep things hidden from you.
  7. Warn your children about the dangers of sexting.
  8. Take a few minutes to show children how much someone can find out about them.  One parent should Google himself and show the children how they can find out who he is, where he works, where he lives, what he’s written about, etc.  It’s very eye-opening.
  9. If a child has his or her own phone, you must be even more careful.  Most phones allow parental control, but you still need to be cautious.  Internet safety experts, for example, warn parents to disable the Safari browser on an iPhone and download one that is safer for kids.  If you’re unsure about what you should do to protect your children on their phones, contact your phone provider for help.
  10. Talk to your children about cyberbullying and what they should do if they’re being bullied online or if they see it happening to someone else.

More useful information can be found at OnGuard Online, the federal government’s website to help you be safe, secure and responsible online

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