READYColorado Blog: Internet and Social Safety Tips

How many electronic, internet enabled devices do you have in your home? How often are you, your family, and your children sending and receiving information via the internet?

The virtual world that we increasingly engage mirrors both the good and the bad of our society.  This begs the question, while you and your family are daily engaging with the ‘good’ on the internet are you protected from the ‘bad’?  According to ConnectSafely, the number one safety tip for virtual worlds, as for anything else, is good parent-child communication.

Low-key, routine discussion about online experiences, just as with offline ones, makes it easier for them to talk with you when things come up. The most likely risks for teens in virtual worlds, just like in school halls and elsewhere, are cyberbullying or harassment and sexually suggestive communication among peers. Language filters help, but kids often have workarounds.

Here are a few social web tips for parents from ConnectSafely:

  • Be reasonable and try to set reasonable expectations. Pulling the plug on your child’s favorite social site is like pulling the plug on his or her social life. Instead of being protective, it can shut down communication and send kids “underground” where they’re more at risk. It’s too easy for them to set up free blogs and profiles from anywhere, including friends’ houses or even a cell phone.
  • Talk with your kids about how they use the services. They, not news reports or even experts, are the ones to consult about their Social-Web experience. Help them understand basic safety guidelines, such as protecting their privacy (including passwords), not harassing peers, never talking about sex with people they don’t know, avoiding in-person meetings with people they “meet” online, and taking care in what they post – because anything people put online can be grabbed, reworked, and used against them.
  • Support critical thinking and civil behavior because no laws or parental-control software can protect better than a child’s developing good sense about safety and relationships. Research shows that kids who are aggressive and mean online toward peers or strangers are at greater risk of becoming victims themselves. So teach them to be good citizens and friends online as much as offline.
  • Consider requiring Internet use in a high-traffic place in your home – not in kids’ rooms – to help you stay aware of their online time. This way, you can encourage a balance between online time and their offline academic, sports, and social times. Know that there are also many ways kids can access the Internet away from home, including on many mobile phones and game players.
  • Try to get your kids to share their profiles and services with you, but be aware that they can have multiple accounts on multiple services. Use search engines and the search tools on social-networking sites to search for your kids’ full names, phone numbers and other identifying information. You’re not invading their privacy if they’re putting personal info in public “places” online. If their pages are private, that’s a good thing, but it’s even better if they share it with you. Be aware of the apps they use on their mobile devices.

In today’s day and age internet safety should not be an afterthought.  Things like cyberbullying, identity theft, account hacking and stalking by online predators are occurring more and more often.  Take proactive steps today to ensure that you and your loved ones are engaging the digital world safely and appropriately.  

Internet Safety Resources