Hi, I’m Sydney, and I want to share with you three ways to increase your family internet safety.
The internet is a large place—and it’s only going to get bigger as it becomes more accessible to people around the world.
Although cyberspace has connected the human race together more than it has ever before, there have been some drawbacks. Internet safety has become its own unique territory of security—especially when it comes to young families.
So how do you combat the dangers of cyberspace when children are exposed to it every day?
You can start with these three ways to increase family internet safety by teaching your children about the importance of being careful with their physical devices, social media accounts, and online presence.
3 Ways to Increase Family Internet Safety
1 – Being Safe with Physical Devices
One of the three ways to increase family internet safety begins with the physical device itself. When you introduce electronics in the home, take the time to talk about how to be safe with gadgets such as laptops, phones, or iPads.
Besides being gentle with the equipment, you can teach valuable lessons about taking time off from electronics. If you feel it is appropriate, discuss with your children the proper ratio of on-screen to off-screen time they should have and come up with a compromise or plan.
Write these rules down and create a contract that both you and your child will sign. For example, rules could include video games only being played when homework is finished, portable games being exclusively used on the weekends or car trips, and/or for every hour of outside time comes one hour of electronic time.
With the contract, come up with reasonable and agreed-upon consequences for your child and yourself if a party breaks the outlined terms. Not only does this teach valuable safety skills, but it also demonstrates the importance of agreements, compromise, commitment, and contracts!
Another important item to keep in mind is to make sure everything is password protected. If you feel your child is old enough, teach them about the importance of keeping credentials secret and safe.
This protection includes not sharing passwords or usernames with classmates, extended family, and/or friends. On the other hand, it is alright to point out some persons that it may be okay to share passwords with, such as you, law enforcement, or a teacher. Make a specific list that outlines who they should and should not share credentials with.
With the many horror stories of unwanted people getting into someone’s account, this may save a lot of time, embarrassment, and heart-ache in the end.
Teach about other safety rules that you and your child should follow, such as covering up cameras on devices, making sure all electronic equipment has passwords, and more. These skills will carry throughout your child’s life. Even adults have a hard time with these safety guidelines, so this is a great way to start practicing yourself!
2 – Being Safe on Social Media
When your child is old enough and desires to have a social media account, it is considered to be a coming-of-age moment in the virtual realm. Here, they are exposed to a whole new world of friends, media, and more! However, just as any coming-of-age talk, there are rules they must know to keep themselves safe—thus making the second installment of our three ways to increase family internet safety.
Talk to them about online predators that lurk about social media platforms (in secret or in plain sight) that specifically target these young, electronic newcomers. Teach them guidelines of personal identity, and privacy. The internet is not the place to trust each new friend you meet.
You may also want to read this post about how to keep your child safe from predators and warning signs of abuse to look for.
Discuss valuable guidelines such as never directly sending money to another user, and to report to you if someone is making them feel uncomfortable or is sending explicit messages. As difficult as it may be, talk to them about grooming, and remind them not to share identifiable information such as addresses, phone numbers, or even school names.
Young teens are also prone to oversharing. With your child, learn habits and guidelines that will help prevent them from posting something they may regret.
One valuable trick is to have your child plan out posts beforehand. Make a calendar of what to post when. This will make them create a social media strategy that will help them not only post consistently (and thus increase the chances of gaining more followers) but will also give them a chance to review their content before it is put up in cyberspace. Here, they can learn valuable lessons about marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) which are valuable skills to have in our increasingly electronic world.
This may also allow you to get involved as your child’s personal editor. If something would seem questionable, kindly tell them why you think so and go over what could be changed—which in turn will increase the likelihood of them producing awesome content that anyone could enjoy!
Another good practice to follow is when your child has an urge to post or comment about something, have them step away from their phone or computer for a couple of hours before they do so. Then if they feel like it still is a good idea to post, then post! Otherwise, don’t. As annoying or tedious as this may be, this will prevent “heat of the moment” situations and force them to look at their social media objectively.
Mistakes in cyberspace can haunt someone for years to come. Discuss what is appropriate to share and what is not and why posting about controversial subjects, such as religion and politics, should be a no-go as this can affect their ability to get scholarships, jobs and even increase chances of bullying. This will potentially save them from a lot of embarrassment and potential heartache in the end!
3 – Safe Online Presence
When letting children browse the general internet, there are a lot of unknowns to worry about. Questionable content is everywhere and the internet sometimes seems like an infinite black hole of media and opinions. How can we protect our children from the negatives of cyberspace?
One of the three ways to increase family internet safety is by installing parental controls and safety locks. (Some programs can even limit the time a child can spend on the internet!)
Just as with balancing exercise and time spent on electronics, you can also make a contract on what your child can and cannot do when in cyberspace. Specify what websites your child can and cannot go to, when to report to you, how to treat others, and what the consequences are if they break those rules.
Some parental programs can help you trace and track where your child has been. Make it clear that you are watching and will consistently monitor their browsing on the internet.
For children who are young, there are also some fantastic resources available to you. Common Sense’s “We the Digital Citizens” video series does an excellent job of teaching kids about the basics of internet safety with fun animations and songs! Watch and discuss these videos with your child. It’s a great way to get youngsters started on their internet journey!
As you teach your children early about these three ways to increase family internet safety, you will instill habits that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Not only will you be keeping your children safe, but you will also increase the likelihood of your children gaining and maintaining opportunities (e.g., jobs), decreasing their chances of embarrassment and making cyberspace a safer source of information and browsing for all.
About the Author of Family Internet Safety
Sydney Sneddon is a graphic designer at CodeChangers, a company that provides opportunities for children and teens to learn about technology.
Armed with her two degrees (Interaction Design, Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education), she designs materials for the company, writes for their blog, and helps with teaching classes there.
When not designing flyers and teacher manuals, Sydney also enjoys anything to do with the arts including piano ensemble, drawing, voice acting, and creative writing.
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