Do Your Kids Know How to Be Safe Online?Amber Brandt
The world is a very different place than when we grew up. We have greater access to lifesaving technology, information, and connectivity than ever before, but we (and our children) also face different kinds of digital threats. Whether we are using devices to conduct business, communicate, or shop online, we need to be aware of potential risks and protect ourselves. We must be smart about cyber security and train our children to do the same.
According to Influence Central, the average age a child gets his or her first smartphone is 10 years old. And by 12, 50 percent of children have social media accounts. We must talk about internet safety early, clearly, and regularly with our kids. According to StaySafeOnline.org there are three very basic things you can share with them to help protect personal information.
1. Think before you type. “Help your children understand that any information they share online can easily be copied and is almost impossible to take back. Teach them to consider who might see a post and how it might be perceived in the future.” What they post could last a lifetime. Children need help to see what the consequences of their actions could mean long-term. Warn them of the dangers of befriending and communicating with people they don’t know virtually, and make sure they know never to share private information online.
2. Practice the Golden Rule. “Post only about others as you would like to have them post about you.” Even if it’s easier to do from behind a screen, bullying is still bullying... and it is continuing to become more vile, bold, and cruel. The current Lala Bop TikTok trend is a perfect example. According to Urban Dictionary, the term “Lala Bop” is slang for someone – usually a girl – who’s allegedly promiscuous. Complete with its own trending audio track, this trend involves posting a photo of the person being targeted, outlining a list of their alleged discretions on the following side in text. Often the person is not aware they’ve become a victim of this trend, even though it’s designed to shame and smear them – and in cases where they are made aware, the results can be devastating and irreversible.
3. Stay plugged in. The best approach a parent can take is to engage their child in honest, deliberate dialogue about their activity online, actively monitor their devices, and encourage them to speak out to a parent, teacher, or administrator when they witness bullying of any kind. “Start the conversation about the public nature of the internet as early as possible. Learn about and teach your kids how to use privacy and security settings on their favorite online games, apps, and platforms.” Don’t give your child free rein of devices in their bedroom or late into the night. Make sure your presence is consistent and monitor what they’re doing online. If you keep tabs on who they’re texting, what they’re downloading, etc., you’ll have a much better chance of intercepting a potentially dangerous situation before it can happen.
Speaking of games, here are a few more tips from the National Cyber Security Alliance to keep your kids and their devices on the up and up.
- Secure their accounts. “Ask for protection beyond passwords. Many account providers now offer additional ways for you to verify who you are before you play games on their site.”
- Work on making passwords that are tough to crack. “Combine capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols to create a more secure password.”
- Be smart about pictures. “Have your kids use an avatar rather than an actual picture of themselves.”
- Chat wisely or not at all. “If your kids play a game that features live voice chat, make sure they disguise their voice. If a game does not have this feature, do not let them use voice chat.”