Online Safety Tips for the Whole Family
By Alyssa Craig
As a parent, there are four main concerns as your family goes online or takes part in social media: online predators, cyberbullying, giving out too much personal information, and stumbling upon inappropriate material. In order to keep yourself and your family safe in a world when strangers can reach out to us right in our own homes, it is important to set guidelines and teach our children online safety and how to use the internet for good. Here are some items to understand and go over as a family.
Be Online Literate
First and foremost, as a parent it is important for you to keep up with your child’s knowledge of the internet in order to be able to keep them safe. Stay up to date on new technologies, social media sites, and other websites your child might be viewing.
Family Game Plan
Sit down together and decide on what they family’s rules will be for online safety and internet usage (computer, tablet, and phone). Children will feel some ownership over the rules and be more likely to respect them. Make sure you discuss what is appropriate and inappropriate for all family members to be posting and discuss how what they do online can have real life consequences, such as those referenced here.
Make sure you have up to date malware and anti-virus software. Kids might still click on something they should not click on, putting your computer at risk for a virus.
Protecting Personal Information
As a general rule, no personal information (phone number, age, birthdate, address, social security number, etc.) should be shared online. Tell your children they need to check with you before giving out any personal information online. This will not only keep them safe from predators, but also lower the risk of identity theft.
You should have access to all accounts your child might have such as social media and email accounts. It should also be understood that you have the right to log in and read messages at any time. Assure your children that you trust them and this is only to monitor their safety.
Keep Computer in a High Traffic Area
Make sure the family computer is always in use in a high traffic area, to reduce the risk of things being viewed that shouldn’t be. On the same note, phones can be left in a family charging station overnight, rather than taken to bedrooms. Computers and phones should not be kept in or used in bedrooms.
Parental Control Software
Take advantage of software that is available to let you set parental controls for internet usage. This will keep even the most innocent online surfer from accidentally finding themselves somewhere they ought not to be.
Model Appropriate Internet Usage
Explore the internet together to show your children how it can be used for gaining knowledge and never let them see you viewing something you would never want them looking at themselves. Follow online safety family rules yourself.
Social Media Guidelines
As a family, also set guidelines for what social media sites and apps they will be allowed to use and be sure to “friend” your child on all of these sites so you can see their activity at any time.
Teach your children that they should be the same person online that they are in person. Often bullies can use online mediums as a way to hide behind profiles to hurt others. Encourage your child to come to you if anyone is treating them poorly, in the same way they would tell you about a bully at school.
Discuss internet dangers, online safety limits they should maintain and then have a continual discussion of their favorite websites, who they are interacting with, and what they are seeing. Have them “introduce” you to any new online friends, especially if they do not know them in real life.
Take Suspicious Behavior Seriously
If your child is spending excessive amounts of time online, turns off the computer suddenly when you enter the room, or is interacting with someone you do not know, address the problem immediately and directly.
By following these online safety guidelines, as well as setting any additional parameters that may be necessary for your individual family situation, you can keep your family safe online and encourage family members to use the internet for good.
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