Summer vacation is over and your kids are back in school, facing the threats of cyberbullying, sexting and other online safety dangers. According to a recent poll in the UK, 35% of 11- to 17-year-olds reported being bullied online and four in 10 said they had witnessed others being picked on online.
And according to a study from December 2013, 473,000 6-17 year olds visited an adult website from a PC or laptop, of which 44,000 children were aged 6-11 years old!
And what about Secret, Whisper, Tinder and all the other new anonymous messaging apps that kids are using these days? There’ve been a lot of stories recently in the media about how these apps are being used for anonymous cyberbullying…
So, there is no better time to review online safety practices and tips!
Know what is happening online, where your kids go and what they do when they are online. Learn about the possible dangers – cyberbullying, sexting, online predators, and inappropriate content. Understand how these could occur, what warning signs to watch out for, and what the possible consequences could be. Remember that sometimes familiar “frenemies” who use the Internet as a weapon, may be more threatening than strangers.
Communicate with your kids
Explain about the dangers possibly awaiting them online. Tell them they should feel free to come to you whenever they feel uncomfortable – whether they “accidentally” see inappropriate content, receive a request from a stranger or feel threatened by a bully.
Review basic online safety rules
Remind your kids of these basic online safety rules:
Avoid posting of photos online!Avoid giving out names, addresses, phone numbers, schools, banking information or other similar informationNever meet someone you only know onlineDo not share your password!Do not believe everything you read. If it’s online, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is trueAvoid “checking-in” and geo tagging
For older kids that use social networks, remind them that everything online is permanent. Screenshots, caches and other tools mean that even deleting a post or comment won’t make it go away. Tell them to pause and think through every post.
Did you get them a new laptop, tablet, or smartphone?
Here are some things you should do to keep your kids safer when online:
Dying to share those “back to school” photos on Facebook? Think again…
It’s fun to share your children’s first day of school photos for all your relatives and friends to see. But here are a few things to consider before you do so:
“Unfriendly” people may find/download your child’s picture – in order to use, abuse or even try to pursue your child. To prevent this from happening you may want to think carefully about the type of images you post — for example, posting nude images should be avoided.Someone may misappropriate your child’s picture/identity, and pass your child as someone else’s or even worse – use their identity for fraudulent purposes. To avoid this, tweak Facebook’s privacy settings so that only friends and family can see the photos, and never share any of your child’s private info, such as social security or phone numbersWhen your child grows up, he will have an entire online history he never made/wanted. College admission boards, future employers now look routinely at Facebook profiles as part of their screening process. Will your child really6 want them be able to see him boarding the school bus in third grade? To avoid this either refrain from posting under your/their full name or avoid posting pictures that show his/her face clearly.
And what about their time at school? Are they safe? .
Here some questions to look into with your child’s teachers and administrators:
What are the rules regarding mobile devices at school?
Are children allowed to use mobile devices for calculating and research? Is there a punishment for texting in class? Or, are mobile devices not allowed in the classroom at all?Are there social-networking rules regarding student/teacher interaction?
Many teachers use Facebook and other social networks to connect to students and make themselves available for questions, while others do not. Ask your child’s teacher what their rules are, and make sure you feel comfortable with any social-networking requirements.Does your school have a Cyberbullying policy?
What is expected from both the parents and student when it comes to dealing with cyberbullying incidents? Many schools have recently implemented harsher penalties for cyberbullies, including suspension and even expulsion.Does your school use filtering software?
What is your school doing to protect your child from harmful online content and contacts while they are at school, and what happens to a student who tries to access inappropriate material.
With over one billion Facebook users worldwide (as of October 2012) it looks like social networks are here to stay. And as of September 2012, the majority of American teens (58%), ages 13-17, now own a smartphone, so they are able to access the internet and social networks 24/7, wherever they are. And summer vacation means a lot of free time for your kids, no doubt a lot of it will be spent on social networks!
Although the jury is still “out” on the positive vs. negative influences of social networks on teens, tweens or even younger kids, there are certainly dangers involving their use. Cyberbullying, the posting of private information or images, and other online safety issues should concern you as parents. But the good news is that there are quite a few things you can do to provide a safer social networking experience for your kids:
Launched in February 2004, Facebook has recently announced that it has 1 billion active users worldwide1 (about 3 times the population of the United States!)
Although buried and eulogized many times over, Facebook’s popularity is still very much on the rise. Love it, hate it, there is absolutely no getting away from it. And it doesn’t look as if Facebook is going away in the near future.
So is it a good thing? How does it affect your kids? What are the advantages? What are the disadvantages? Here’s a look at some of the many ways in which this ever popular social networking site affects your kids’ lives in some good, and some not-so-good ways.
It’s easy! Setting up a profile is a smooth process, and the relatively uncluttered UI of the site is easy to navigate and use. It’s free and all you need is an internet connection and any device that can connect to the internet, mobile phones included.Beyond boundaries: Facebook transcends all physical boundaries, and lets your kids connect with far away friends and distant family. Your kids can easily be informed about what goes in the lives of people who are physically distant.Your child decides who to share with. Your child can choose who they would like to share their status updates, photos or check-ins with.A place to share thoughts, causes and ideas. Your child can interact with kids with similar interests and ideas across the globe. They can join groups and support fan pages, and find out what other kids are interested in.Enhances social skills. Facebook allows kids to keep up with current friends and make new ones. When used in the right way, social media can increase a child’s self-esteem and help them feel less isolated, as if they belong to a group. Facebook also allows those who are shy or have trouble making friends to socialize more easily. And let’s face it – everybody’s on it…It’s educational! A majority of tweens and teens use social networking to discuss school work and share discussions about school assignments.Kids can be mean:cyberbullying can be a real problem. There are even some documented cases of kids who committed suicide after being bullied on social networks!Things aren’t always what they seem There are many fake Facebook accounts, information that is misrepresented – your child could be exposed to these.
Privacy: Privacy is a major concern for most Facebook users, and it’s really important to understand the site’s privacy settings and set them accordingly. And even though a lot has been done to improve the site’s security, it can still be confusing. As a result, hackers can have access to- and misuse- personal information.Time consuming Facebook is a real time guzzler – your kid could be playing outdoors, doing homework or doing other more meaningful things.Freedom of expression? Other kids (or even your own for that matter) on Facebook could misuse that freedom and post offensive or inappropriate content, which your kids will see! And this leads us to the next point:It’s addictive! Besides all the social features there are games on Facebook that can be very addictive. Did anyone mention Farmville?Whose image is it anyway? Once your child uploads an image to Facebook, it becomes public and anyone can download and misuse that image. Its anti-social? For your kids online interaction could become a replacement for face-to-face meetings. This can hurt social development and isolate your kids.It can hurt their future: kids can post regrettable information or photos that will be discovered by college admissions or potential employers in the future. Once information goes online, it never goes away.
So does the good outweigh the bad? It’s hard to tell. Either way you probably won’t be able to completely block your kids from using it. So it’s important to remember that if your kids are on Facebook, they should be aware of the dangers, and they should take steps to protect themselves, such as adjusting the privacy settings. It’s your job as a parent to explain the dangers and help them protect themselves, but also to be there for them, to listen and help, if they experience something that makes them feel uncomfortable or scared.
PureSight provides protection from cyberbullying and suspicious contacts on Facebook and you don’t even have to be “friends” with your child.
Holiday time is gift- giving time, and we all want to make our children happy. When considering this year’s gift – are you thinking about purchasing a Smartphone, tablet or some other internet-enabled device for your child? Do you feel the need to “keep up with the Joneses”, or that the earlier your child becomes familiar with the technology – the better? Or is it simply because your daughter has been using the “everyone in my class already has one” excuse? In fact, recent data shows that 41% (!) of third graders already have access to a personal Smartphone!
Two sides of the same coin
Whatever your motivation, you are probably aware that there are two sides to this coin: on the one hand, the benefits of being technologically ahead, exposed to the enormous repository of knowledge that is the Internet, and the ability to be socially connected to their peers – are all enormous advantages for your children. On the other hand, there are the dangers that we constantly hear about: cyberbullying, sexting, pornography, online predators, and privacy issues are only a few.
And there are so many other questions to consider:
What is the” right” age to give them their first device?
What will they do with it?
Will they be able to use it all the time or only for a few hours each day?
Do I even understand the potential dangers?
And what about “parental controls”?
Confused? In fact, a recent FOSI (Family Online Safety Institute) report dealt with parenting in the digital age, exploring how parents weigh the potential benefits and harms of their child’s using electronic devices and being online.
There doesn’t really seem to be a clear answer, but here are some points to think about:
Technology is part of modern life. Children should be allowed to become familiar with it and become digital citizens like most of the people around us
The Internet is an amazing repository of knowledge and information – children need to feel comfortable with it and with the ways to access this information and make use of it!
As adults we are aware of the fact that our connection to our Smartphone is quite unique – we check it often (the average user checks their Smartphone 150 times a day!). It is much more than just our telephone or our phone book. We use it for recreation, to play games, to socialize, to navigate, to seek information, to shop, and much much more. The boundaries between what is and isn’t allowed are not clear, even for adults. Do we want our children to behave this way at their very early age?
The Smartphone could be dangerous
Along with it being an amazing tool, there are inherent dangers associated with being connected to a Smartphone, to name a few:
If there is no filtering in place, your child could access websites with inappropriate content – pornography, anorexia, hate, violence, and many more.
Smartphones can be a very convenient platform for cyberbullying as your child will be able to reached at any time, and at any location. And there are quite a few very popular anonymous social media apps that enable anonymous cyberbullying
Sexting is another burning issue – how long before your child is exposed to their first sexually explicit image? Or before they are encouraged by someone else to send one of their own?
Privacy issues are also of concern – will your child be sharing their full name? Phone number? Address? The name of their school? How about their location? Unless turned off, anyone can determine where your child is.
Your child could also be at risk of being approached by online predators, who may even convince them to meet them in person
So, what should I do?
One way to determine whether the time has come to purchase a Smartphone for your child is to ask yourself these 2 simple questions:
Does your child need the phone to stay connected with you or for emergency situations?
Does your child understand and respect the time and usage limits you have placed on other things like television and video game playing?
If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’, your child might be ready for their first phone.
Things you can, and should, do
If you do decide to go ahead and buy them a Smartphone, it is still very important that along with that shiny holiday gift-wrapped box with a Smartphone inside you give them an equally important gift – talk to them! Talk about what types of apps are okay to download and how to surf the Internet safely, make sure that they understand who it is OK to communicate with and more importantly, with whom it’s not OK, that they understand what is OK to share online and what is not OK, which pictures are OK to share and which are not. In addition to all this, make sure that the phone you give them is protected. PureSight Multi can help you do that – check out how!
One of the tools you can use to protect your children is a family online safety contract where you can define internet usage rules for parents and children in your family. When you’ve created such a contract, your children will know what is expected of them and what they are can or cannot do, as well as your obligations as a parent.
We’ve collected a few sample contracts that you can use as a basis. You can use them “as is”, amend them to suit your family’s specific needs and the age of your children, or create your own.
Tips for creating a family online safety contract
Explain to your kids that the contract is meant to help them and keep them safe and not to limit them or make their life difficult. Talk to them about the potential dangers of online life such as cyberbulllying, sexting, and online predators
It could be a good idea to sit down and define online house rules together. If you decide to use one of the sample contracts listed below and your kids suggest a change, try to understand why. They may be right!
Make sure you read through the different sections of the contract with your children and that everyone understands each and every item.
Everyone should sign the contract – parents and children – to confirm that they have read and understood the terms and that they agree to them.
Once everyone has signed place the contract in a visible place next to each computer in the house.
As your kids grow, the contract may need revising.
Following are a few contracts that are available online. Look through them and see if you can find one that suits your family’s needs.
FOSI – Family Online Safety Institute
Interactive tool guides you through creation of an online safety agreement by filling out preferred options, such as who will be able to view child’s online profile (options: everyone, friends only, no one). End result can be printed. Includes all media: media, such as video games, TV and the Internet.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children