Keeping a watchful eye on your kids requires an increasing level of tech savvy many parents find intimidating. Not only are your kids vulnerable to bad actors online, but your family’s personal information could be at risk, as well.
Learn how to protect your children and family in this digital age with these tips:
• Encourage open communication. Have conversations about what your kids see and do online and talk with them about potential dangers. Avoid lecturing in favor of an open exchange of information.
• Make their inherent interest in privacy work in your favor. Kids in this age group, particularly toward the middle school years, understand the concept of privacy and value it immensely. Use that context to help them understand what goes online is there to stay. Talk about what kinds of information should always be kept private, including identifying details like addresses and social security numbers.
• Stay on alert. Not all apps are completely safe (even the ones you can access from trusted stores) and not all filters are foolproof. Keep close tabs on what your kids are downloading by reading comments and reviews, and regularly monitoring what kind of content they see.
Middle school and high school kids
• Continue talking about privacy. You can never have too many conversations about privacy. What seems like harmless sharing on social media can be quite revealing. For example, frequent posts about visits to a favorite store or restaurant can allow a predator to begin tracking behavior patterns that make your child a target. It’s also important for kids to understand how their privacy settings work. For example, settings that allow exposure to friends of friends make their visibility to strangers much broader than they may realize.
• Help manage their online reputation. Behaviors that once resulted in a day or two of hallway chatter can now live forever. Documenting mischief online is only fun until it spills over into real life and everyone sees those mistakes in full color – including prospective future employers.
• Be clear about your position on bullying. From the safe distance of a screen, it’s easier for kids (and adults) to say things they’d never say in person. Teach your kids to handle problems constructively offline and avoid engaging in attacks on others through social media, email and other platforms.
• Reinforce the risks. Once they’re on their own, kids may feel more liberated to make their own choices online. However, college students are easy prey for identity theft and worse. Remind them what’s at stake if they fail to protect their identity and private information, like where they live and what they do on a regular basis.
• Teach smart practices. With all the independence that comes with college life, this is an ideal time for your student to take personal responsibility for his or her online security, including learning about virus protection, updating software, avoiding scams and backing up data.