It’s that time of the year again. It’s a time most kids hate with a passion: the day they go back to school.
Time for You to Get into School Mode, Parents!
Like any caring parent, you’re probably anxious to find what your kids did, what they learned, and whether they made any new friends.
While these things are very normal to think about, it’s also important to note how much they’ll be using the Internet. Once your kids head back to school, they will be using computers; tablets; and maybe even their mobile phones to help grow their skill set and learn more about technology. They will use new programs, try out new apps and discuss things with their classmates online.
As parents, it is important to guide your kids and to empower them so that they can make smart decisions online; this goes for both in school and outside of school. Not only that, but you need to help them understand when someone else is doing something wrong online so that they know how to respond to their behavior.
As your kids head back to school, now would be the perfect time to have a conversation with them and remind them about the consequences that their actions on the Internet can have…
…And we’re going to provide you with 10 back-to-school internet safety tips parents can use right now! (Courtesy of Stehen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute)
1. No Online Information Is ‘Private’
Explain to your child that he/she should never give out any personal information online without your permission. This happens very often, since teenagers and tweens practically live online nowadays. It’s always important for them to remember that people could take advantage of anyone if they post information about themselves anywhere online.
One good example to bring up is geotagging, which uses a GPS to let people know your location in a social media post.
2. Think before Your Click
Along the lines of no information being private online, it is important to explain the consequences of stay conscious of what your child posts online. A child could damage his/her reputation based on one measly post. It might seem fun for them to post at the time – whether it be a joke or a something you want to share with your friends – but let them know that you or your teachers could see it if they don’t stop and think about whether this could negatively impact them in the long run.
*A rule of thumb most people use is to post something only if their grandmother is okay with it.
3. Don’t Talk to Strangers in a Private Setting
Kids probably hear the phrase, “Never talk to strangers” and scoff. Why? Because they’ve heard it a million times and they think that nothing bad could ever happen to them. Plus, people talk to strangers all the time online because we’re all connected to each other.
Social media posts and online forums are certainly okay, because they are public and everyone can see what you write. However, once your child shifts over to a private conversation (inbox messaging, texting, private online chat, etc.), that’s when it gets very dangerous.
Emphasize that people pretend to be other people behind a screen and that they particularly take advantage of young kids online. They can lie about their age, set their profile picture as a kid, and talk about your own hobbies if they know your personal information.
This concept is called online grooming; read more about it here. Groomers practically live on the Internet now because the Internet is a great place for online predators to talk to your kids without you knowing what they’re doing or talking about.
4. Use Your Electronic Devices in an ‘Open Environment’
Nearly every legitimate online safety resource recommends to keep laptops, tablets, phones, and even online gaming systems like PS4 and X-Box in a common area. Why? Because anything can happen in a private area.
However, demanding to keep your child’s electronic devices might seem overly simplistic, for many reasons. For one, kids are smarter than we give them credit. They will find a way to use the Internet on their own. If they have friends who have a computer in their bedroom, they will gladly use theirs. (And let’s face it: it’d be pretty weird for a parent to stay in their friend’s bedroom.)
If your kid has a smartphone, forget about it; a smartphone is pretty much a computer that can fit in your pocket and can do anything.
If think tracking their online usage through online filters will prevent them from using it, think again. Children can work around them and access inappropriate content all the time.
So what do you do? Have an open dialogue in an open environment with your child. Tell your children what you’re doing, set a balance for them, and establish some fundamental ground rules. For example, you can say that you can use electronic devices in the family room for homework. You will then review everything he/she has done on the computer on a regular basis. If she violates these rules, the technology will be taken away. If she proves he/she is responsible, you can grant him/her additional privileges.
This article by Cyberbullying.org makes a great case for this.
5. Stay Educated, and Get Involved
After having a conversation with your child about online safety right before he/she goes back to school, it’s important to follow up with them. Find out what they’re learning. Do some research on some of the new online topics, along with websites your child uses, and the online apps emerging in today’s world.
We’ll help you along the way. For example, take a look at this article about Pokémon Go and learn about some of the dangers it might have on your child.
With the new school year ahead, it is important to start your child’s school year before they go back to school. Set Internet guidelines and set the tone at home so that your kid can thrive as a responsible digital citizen in an academic learning environment. Your child earning about online safety at home before he/she goes back to school is just as important as learning about the new programs they’ll use at school. Learning doesn’t just happen at school.
Now make it happen!