Back to School? Tips on keeping your kids safe!

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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!

Educate yourself!

Know what is happening online, where your kids go and what they do when they are online. Learn about the possible dangers – cyberbullyingsextingonline 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:

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:

Is your kid a victim of cyberbullying?

And what about their time at school? Are they safe? .

Here some questions to look into with your child’s teachers and administrators:

back to school, online child safety, safe internet use

Tips for safe social networking

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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:

Facebook, online child safety, safe internet use, safe social networking

The Pros and Cons of Facebook

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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.

Pros
Cons

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.

Explore Features >

advantages, disadvantages, Facebook, online child safety, social media

Should I get my child a Smartphone/tablet as a holiday gift?

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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!

Is she too young?

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!

Family online safety contract

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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 cyberbulllyingsexting, 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.

Organization:
FOSI – Family Online Safety Institute

Activity:
The Family Online Internet Safety Contract

Website:
Parent contract and child contract.

Organization:
SafeKids

Activity:
Family Contract for Online Safety

Website:
Kid’s pledge and parents pledge.

Organization:
Cyberbullying Research Center

Activity:
Internet Use Contract

Website:
Outline parent and child’s expectations.

Organization:
Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens

Activity:
Parent-Teen Internet Use Agreement

Website:
Items such as “I will protect my personal privacy by: …” to be filled out by parents and teens and signed.

Organization:
US Attorney General

Activity:
Internet Safety Contract

Website:
Pledge for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Organization:
School Family

Activity:
Internet Safety Contract

Website:
Nicely designed.

Organization:
Get Game Smart

Activity:
Make a Pact

Website:
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.

Organization:
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Activity:
Internet & Cell Phone Use Agreement

Website:
Short and straight forward.

online child safety, online family safety contract, tools
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