The internet provides a world of shopping, fun and instant communication between billions of people. It has become a daily necessity in schools for children as young as five.
However, since the internet is such an incredible tool of the modern world, it consequently comes with a great amount of responsibility specifically for parents of young children, teens, and tweens. Keeping yourself and your family well-informed on the potential benefits and risks of the internet is vital to the overall safety of your loved ones.
Here are five things you should teach your kids about online safety.
Awareness of Cyber Dangers
First of all, you need to ask yourself if you are aware of all the dangers that lurk in chat rooms, on different websites, social media networks or even in online games. You should research the topic well before you educate your kids.
Once you have enough information, sit with your kids and talk to them. Let them know that, even though the internet is full of useful and fun information, there are certain things they should be careful about. Maintaining an open dialogue about internet safety, personally introducing internet etiquette and setting a healthy example is fundamental.
You have to let your kids know that they can come across a bad website without doing anything wrong – they can simply click on an ad that grabs their attention and download viruses to their device. The same can happen if they download a game or other software.
Let’s be honest, it happens to adults, too. Besides pop-up ads, malware can hide in e-mails. Tell them to never open messages from unknown senders and even if their friends send them something unexpected, they should check with you before opening the attachment.
There are many safety software programs that prevent virus infections and filter inappropriate websites. The important thing is to always keep them updated. Some safety software will monitor your child’s activity and even notify you via text of an online threat in real-time.
This type of defense is a tremendous help, especially when combined with instilling recognition of unsafe websites or suspicious messages from someone they do not know on social media.
Unfortunately, viruses are not the only danger of internet. With other risks, you can’t rely on computer software to protect you and your kids. For example, your child could easily become a victim of cyberbullying.
If this happens to your child, it is important to teach them not to react or to respond to the bully’s insults. Delete the bully from the contact list and if your child’s profile has been tampered with, have it taken down.
Most importantly, encourage your child to talk to you if they have problems online. Initiate the conversation yourself; don’t wait for something to happen. That way, you will nip cyberbullying in the bud.
Unfortunately, research has shown that many children who were bullied online later become bullies themselves. This is why it is very important to spend some quality online time with your child to see whether they are behaving properly.
Your child has the potential to victimize much more easily when they are behind a computer screen. The temptation to say rude or inappropriate things online to or about someone who they normally would not is immense. There is no immediate consequence of the person’s real life reaction to discourage them. This is where you as a parent step in to let them know that online encounters hold the same weight as in-person interactions.
Let them know early and often that words can be just as hurtful when typed as they are when spoken and that it is as bad to bully someone online as it is in real life. They don’t only hurt the other person, they make themselves look bad. Tell them to imagine how they would feel if they were bullied.
Children are naturally very trusting. If someone asks for their phone number or address, they will most likely give it. You should teach them what their private information is and when it is acceptable to share it. Be sure to stress that their full name, email address and online passwords are just as personal as their home address.
If they share this information, it can easily fall into the hands of hackers and scammers that can steal their identity. Teaching them how to prevent that from happening is also very important. The danger doesn’t stay online – perverts, stalkers, and thieves can find your house, your office, or your child’s school.
The internet allows us to share every moment with whoever we choose, and your child should know that once something is shared online it cannot be taken back. For example, if your child shared a perfectly appropriate photo of themselves and their best friend in their school uniforms, this could give away their location if the school name is embroidered on their uniform or if the picture was captured outside of their school. That way, they can become an easy target for pedophiles and kidnappers.
When posting photos online, your kids should ask themselves if that photo could be used to somehow ruin their reputation, if they would be comfortable if their teachers saw it, and what they would think about someone who posted a similar photo. If they don’t like the answers, they shouldn’t post the photo.
Assuming your child has been taught that online and real life interactions come with the same consequences and not to share personal information, the next step is to guide them as they encounter strangers online.
It is imperative that your kids know when they are being asked sexually inappropriate questions or being sent suggestive material and are comfortable enough to tell you when it happens. Meeting friends online can be a safe and positive experience if the proper precautions are taken and adults are present, but it is your responsibility to let your kid know that it is very easy for people to claim to be someone they are not online.
It is easy for someone to lie about their identity, age and intentions online. If your child chats with someone who they have never met in real life, warn them that the person maybe isn’t who they say they are and that they should never meet with them in real life. Maintaining and open dialogue about strangers and safe online communication will prevent possible danger for yourself and your child.
The Consequences of Bad Online Decisions
Warning your child about the repercussions of choosing to engage in something improper online is imperative to them choosing to make safe decisions in the future. Addressing topics like identity theft and exploitation can be intimidating, but the best person for your child to hear about the honest truth of what the internet can be is you.
Many employers will request or search for social media profiles of their applicants. Teach your child that what they post online can affect their future to save them from embarrassing moments or missed opportunities.
Let your child know that everyone makes mistakes, and if they are ever unsure if something online is safe or intended for them, they can always ask you. Keeping yourself familiar with the benefits and hazards of the internet will help your child gain even more trust in you when learning how to utilize the internet.
Keeping your family safe online is absolutely attainable, and it starts with parents being proficient in all areas of the internet. Take advantage of this advice and the plethora of safety resources for instilling smart, safe and healthy online choices for your child to ensure a pleasant experience for everyone.