There is one very important item that should be on your back-to-school to-do list – teaching your kids to stay safe online.
They’re Already Tech Savvy. Make Sure They’re Security Savvy, Too
It’s officially back-to-school season, and life is about to get a little hectic if it hasn’t already. While you’re scrambling to get all of the right school supplies for your kids, we have on more thing for you to do before the new school year officially starts.
By now you’ve already had the “stranger danger” conversation with your kids, and reminded them to be mindful of traffic and look both ways before crossing the street on their walk to and from school. But have you talked to them about Internet safety? It’s just as important a conversation as any other safety talk you’ve given them before sending them out into the world.
It should come as no surprise that today’s kids are spending more time online than ever before. In addition to the class work and homework assignments that require use of the Internet, a 2016 study by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education found that children in grades 4–8 spend an average of two hours per day online for their own amusement on top of the school-required hours they spend online. The more time kids spend on the Internet, the higher the odds of them being exposed to increasing cybersecurity risks. These risks have evolved far beyond accidentally downloading a virus to include cyber bullying, violent or otherwise inappropriate content, cyber predators, and scams.
As you finish the last of your back-to-school prep, take the advice of the Stop.Think.Connect.TM Campaign and take the following steps to protect your child online:
- Help your children search safely. Unfortunately, the Internet is chocked full of inappropriate websites and content. By installing web filtering software on any computer your kids have use of, you can limit your children’s access to certain sites, words, and images. You can also take advantage of child-safe search browsers designed specifically to protect children online. These browsers can be especially helpful as they’re programmed to filter content that you might not have though to include while setting up your filtering software.
- Teach them good cyber etiquette. Remind your kids that once they share something online, it’s there forever. Even if they delete posts, that content still exists somewhere and can still be shared online without their knowledge. Explain to them that posts they write and images they share online have consequences offline, so they need to be careful not just about the language, pictures, and videos they post, but of the effect they could have on others. Tell them to treat others online the way they want to be treated.
- Ask about their online activities. You want to know who your kids’ friends are offline in order to try and help keep them out of bad situations, so it goes without saying that it’s a good idea to find out who they’re talking to online. Make sure you know which social media sites your children are using, limit the kinds of personal information they share on these sites, and review their online contacts list to be sure their “friends” are not only people they actually know, but real people. Interacting with fake profiles can expose kinds to predators, inappropriate content, and dangerous situations. Make sure they understand this risk.
- Make sure they have strong privacy settings. Social media sites offer privacy settings that will restrict who can access and post on your child’s profile, or who can see that their profile exists. Talk to them about the importance of protecting their personal information – such as their Social Security number, home address, full name, birthday, phone number, and account passwords – by keeping them private and never sharing them anywhere online.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign offers the Chatting with Kids about Being Online Booklet to help you start cybersecurity conversations with your kids. To learn more about how to stay safe online, please visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect, and check out their blog for the latest cybersecurity news and tips to help you and your family stay safe online.
Savvy Cyber Kids, a Stop.Think.Connect. Campaign partner, offers a variety of resources to help you talk to your kids about online safety, including videos, guides, books, and advice. Their Savvy Cyber Kids at Home book series helps young children learn about online safety using pictures and rhymes to make sure they are ready to start playing in cyberspace. Visit www.savvycyberkids.org for more information and resources for your family.