Keeping Kids Safe Online

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This is a guest post from Experian’s SafetyWeb

Today’s technology has provided us with amazing tools.  Computers, tablets, smart phones – it’s hard to imagine life without the conveniences they lend to our daily lives for both adults and youth alike. However, with technology continuing to show an ever stronger presence in our children’s lives, taking the time to discuss proper online behavior is a responsibility that today’s parents need to take seriously and act upon. Educating children of the good and bad the Internet offers is vital.  Understanding the serious dangers that can lurk in cyberspace can help them steer clear of cyberbullying and predators, as well as the importance of protecting their online reputation.

It’s necessary to look at the big picture of what exactly we are doing to really prepare children for living in a world increasingly comprised of round-the-clock online access. It’s easy to allow children to play with electronic devices, but helping them understanding how these devices might impact their lives is critically important.

Here are steps you can take to start the dialogue and help your child navigate cyberspace safely:

  • These days, bullying is just as likely, if not more so, to happen online. We’ve all seen the sad headlines that verify this fact. Establishing the groundwork for a healthy ongoing dialogue on the subject is key to nipping potential problems in the bud.  Ask your children if they have ever experienced it or seen it happen to someone, and let them know you won’t blame or punish them if they find themselves the victim. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, one of the main reasons children don’t tell adults they’ve been cyberbullied is fear that their computer privileges will be taken away.
  • Discuss proper etiquette and establish rules for online activities.  This step will go a long way to prevent your child from being bullied or becoming the bully.  Many of the same rules that apply in person carry over to the online world.  Make it clear that social networking, texting or any other form of online communication should be conducted with appropriate language, interacting with others nicely and not spreading rumors or perpetuating them by forwarding them onto others.  Plain and simple, if you wouldn’t say it in person then it shouldn’t be said online, either.   Furthermore, children, especially teens, should be aware that it’s not just about playing nice, but also protecting their reputation. Once they post a photo or a message online, it’s out there forever for the world to see… that includes college admissions counselors, summer job employers, etc.
  • Take an active role in your child’s use of the computer. Establish rules stressing the importance of their safety including where the computer is stationed in the home, how long they can spend on the computer and what websites are appropriate for them to visit and socialize on. Let your children know they can’t sign up for any social media accounts or add a new online “friend” without your consent. Keep track of their passwords and make it 100 percent clear they should never share this information or any other personal details (address, phone number, etc.) with anyone online.

This is a lot to consume, but take heart, you’re not alone. There are ample resources online as well as monitoring solutions that can provide additional help to keep children safe online.  Taking the time to implement these steps can go a long way to helping a child stay on track and enjoy the infinite possibilities that technology provides 21st century youth.

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