Safer Internet Day 2017: Tips to Keep Your Family Safe
Safer Internet Day 2017 #SID2017
On Tuesday, February 7th, Netsanity will join others around the world and celebrate Safer Internet Day 2017 (http://saferinternetday.us/), an international education and awareness campaign spanning the globe! This years slogan is ‘Be the change: unite for a better internet’. From cyberbullying to social networking, each year Safer Internet Day aims to raise awareness of emerging online issues and chooses topics that reflect today’s top concerns.
With the constant introduction of new technology, social media apps, and online services it helps to get ongoing practical advice. That’s why at Netsanity, we are always working with safety experts, our parents, educators and communities around the globe — to keep parents informed on what works best to keep your children safe when they go online. Together, we hope to continue to build a community of responsible digital citizens.
Here are some quick suggestions for how to help keep your family safe online.
Be clear about your family’s rules and expectations around technology and consequences for inappropriate use. Make sure that your children know that they can come to you for your guidance when they encounter tough decisions or have questions.
Why not take the opportunity today to formalize your agreement on what steps your family will take to ensure online safety. FOSI (The Family Online Safety Institute) has a great printable safety contract that makes it easy to set ground rules with your children for safer and more responsible use of technology. During this activity here are a few additional discussions that you may want to have with your child about appropriate behavior online.
- How should your child respond if someone sends them an inappropriate picture?
- What’s considered acceptable and unacceptable behavior online?
- How should your child respond if they are a victim of cyberbullying?
- How should your child respond if they see that someone else is a victim of cyberbullying?
- How many hours of screentime a day is acceptable in your family?
- What parental controls will you be using on your child’s devices?
- What are the consequences of irresponsible online behaviors?
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. Sometimes cyberbullying can be easy to spot — if your child shows you or you read a text message or spot a comment from a friend on social media, that sounds overly sarcastic or cruel the discussion is easy. However, other acts can be much less obvious, like impersonating a victim online or posting personal information, photos, or roasting designed to hurt or embarrass another person. Some children report that a fake account, webpage, or online persona has been created with the intention to harass and bully them.
Sadly, many children who are cyberbullied don’t dare to tell a teacher or parent, because they fear they could make the problem worse by infuriating the bully or that they may even get their own internet and smartphone privileges taken away by a parent.
Signs of cyberbullying vary, but some signs may include:
- being emotionally upset during or after being online
- being secretive when on their mobile devices
- withdrawing from the family or their regular friends
- wanting to skip out of regular activities
- feeling “sick” and wanting to stay home from school
- declining grades at school
- changes in mood, routine, sleep, or appetite
- being nervous or uncomfortable when getting an instant message, text, or email
If you find that cyberbullying has occurred, immediately take steps to work with your child to block the bully, get help from someone at school like a teacher, principal or guidance counselor. Many schools have protocols for responding to cyberbullying. Additional resources can be found by contacting one of these great resources provided by Gaggle.net.
As parents, we are ultimately the ones responsible for teaching our children how to manage their time so that they can find a balance between being able to use technology for school, social media for fun and still have time to find time in their days to fit in healthy activities that do not involve technology! Setting an example with our own use of our smartphones and tablets is always the first way to approach the problem! A few tips include:
- Set time limits each day with a trustworthy parental control and communicate this with your children so it isn’t a surprise!
- Plan to have dinner as a family and talk during car rides: About two-thirds (64%) of young people say the TV is usually on during meals. Studies show that a family’s richest conversations will always take place during meals and in the car.
- Encourage other activities and provide the necessary resources (books to read, board games, art supplies, and/or sporting equipment).
Privacy on the Internet is a ever growing concern. As parents, it is crucial that we take steps to keep our personal information protected by securing our online accounts and limiting the information that we choose to post on public forums. Yes, this even includes photos of our children that might embarrass them if they show up in a public search in the future! Our lives are being publicly documented like never before. Just do an online search of yourself and you’ll see comments you posted on a news article, your home address, and even personal photos that have may have posted on various social networks. Private information can be used in numerous embarrassing and even harmful ways, so it is increasingly worthwhile to pay attention to privacy issues — and to pass along good advice and habits to your children. Setting a good example goes a long way in teaching your children to be good digital citizens.
We feel that it is important to make sure that your children are only allowed to message and accept friend requests on social media from people that they and know in person. You will find as they get older that sometimes the number of friends they have on a particular app or social media site can become a popularity contest. Many children have been known to friend strangers to increase these numbers. Sadly, strangers with bad intentions realize that and will sometimes try and contact children by masking as someone of the same age or someone who has a similar interest or hobby as your child.
Make sure that you also become friends and contacts within your child’s social media circles and that you continually monitor their posts. The best way to monitor? Be open and do spot checks that allow you to look at your children’s mobile devices instead of depending on any type of spy or hack software. This will ensure that no apps or secret accounts are being hidden or used. Set this expectation from the very beginning (it is never too late to set these expectations if you didn’t start that way) and it should not be a problem in your family. As your children get older, they will not want Mom and Dad looking at their personal messages to their friends and that’s ok if you want ensure them that you are monitoring and not sitting around reading their personal messages word for word.
Most importantly, look to see what apps are installed, take a mental inventory, and if you are not familiar with a particular app, go online and do your research. If you aren’t sure about something that you see on their devices ask them questions.
These days it’s more important than ever to talk to your kids about their online reputation, especially on social networks and apps, and how it can have impact their lives offline. Children need to learn early on that what they post on the internet is not private. Chances are good that a post or message seldom stays only with the person that it was intended for. Friends often share private messages or photos, hackers are everywhere and companies have been known to change their privacy settings or policies often! Does anyone really read those policies? Before your child is ever allowed to use social media or email they should be made aware that everything that they post online should be viewed as if it is public information. Remind them that someday — an employer or a college admissions counselor just might see it. Once something is posted on the internet it is permanent and yes, can easily become public!
Parental controls are the first line of defense in keeping your children safe online. Protect all the devices that your child uses. Their computer isn’t the only way they can stumble across explicit or dangerous content. In fact, most children and teen use their mobile device exclusively.
Here are some additional actions to consider:
- Protect your mobile devices with a trustworthy parental control that cannot be easily defeated like a home router or app can.
- Regularly monitor your child’s internet use and search history. Keep in mind that even the best parental controls may not be able to filter everything, especially if your child does go looking for explicit material.
- Discuss appropriate online behavior, including what sites should and should not be viewed, with your child on a regular basis.
- Use a parental control that has timeout or controls that allow you to schedule “off times” for internet-enabled devices, including smartphones and tablets.
- Discuss what apps you consider to be appropriate for your child. Keep in mind that may apps allow children to view content that they might not be able to get to on other sites.
- If your child is younger and ready to have their own email address we suggest starting with a service like KidsEmail. The have a safe email service for kids and families. KidsEmail allows younger kids have a safe email account while allowing parents to be aware of any correspondence their children send and receive.
Staying safe isn’t just a one-day thing — technology evolves and so will the needs of your family. Make sure that you keep up an ongoing dialogue. Re-establish your family’s ground rules on a regular basis, check in on everyone’s progress and set aside time to talk at regular intervals. Be consistent. Use the internet in the way you’d like your children to, safely and responsibly, and set the example!
We’d love to know how you are celebrating Safer Internet Day 2017! Be sure to join the conversation on Facebook!
Originally published at Netsanity.