The age of the internet has brought us innovation and convenience. Communication is instantaneous, entertainment is dynamic, and information is available anytime and anywhere.
Unfortunately, not all of the societal changes that have resulted from the development of digital technology are positive. There are many threats to the health and well-being of individuals in the digital era. Children are especially vulnerable to cyber hazards.
Easy to Follow Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe Online:
Know the Risks
The rise of digital connectivity through the internet has also led to many serious issues that affect online users. Pornography is pervasive, human trafficking is rampant and bullying is a growing concern. Each of these problems exists offline, but the internet makes the threats more imminent. It is the unfortunate reality that anyone who engages in online activity can face threats to mental health and personal security. However, by considering your own and your children’s use of the internet, you can mitigate some of the risk.
Secure Your Own Internet Behavior
As a parent, you would never knowingly put your child at risk through your actions on the internet. Unfortunately, there are some very common mistakes that good parents make that jeopardize the safety of their families. There are simple steps you can take to make sure that the way you use the internet is protecting your child’s security.
Know the settings: On every platform you use, be sure to check your privacy settings in depth. You should be aware of who can see the content you put out into the digital world. Carefully consider who can view and share your photos or repost your personal posts.
Know your friends: In a society where networking can make or break a career and status is often determined by the number of friends or followers you have, it can be tempting to accept a request from anyone who sends one. If you have never met someone personally, take caution when allowing them access to the content you publish online.
Think twice: Even if you have a lock-down on your social media security and are aware of your internet audience, always think twice about images and content you post. If you wouldn’t want a stranger to have access to a photo of your child, don’t post it. Some parents avoid posting photos of their child’s face online. Others only post photos of children with another adult. It’s a good idea to avoid posting photos of children in the bath (or partially or completely undressed) to respect their privacy and to keep them safe.
Protect sensitive information: Don’t share identifying information such as birth dates or full names where strangers can access them. Did you know that a simple search of your full name on county property tax records can identify exactly where you live? If your profile picture has a child in it, any stranger can use your name to easily find out where that child lives. Don’t share information online about where your kids go to school or daycare, such as in a location tag.
Once you have taken the proper steps and informed yourself about your own internet safety, you can pass on the knowledge to your children to help keep them safe. It is your responsibility to help them learn appropriate ways to engage online.
Secure Your Child’s Internet Behavior
If you have children who participate in online activity, they need to be taught to take the same precautions you do regarding internet safety. As a parent, you are able to control how much access they have to the dangers that can be found online.
Start early: If your child is old enough to operate any type of internet-connected device, it is not too early to take safety. Even very young children can begin to learn what is safe and what isn’t.
Stay connected: An easy way to keep tabs on what is going on in your child’s social media life is to become their online “friend” or to “follow” them. However, it is possible for kids to set up fake accounts in order to dupe their parents about what they are actually saying and doing online.
Educate: Teach your children about the importance of online safety and what the risks are. Educate yourself about the sites, apps or games your child uses online and any risks associated with them. Recently, it was discovered that an app designed to share karaoke on the internet is actually being used to solicit child pornography.
Use tools: Install filters and controls on computers and smartphones. There are many programs you can use that share a device’s online activity with a parent. You can set up time limits or restrictions on apps and websites from your own phone. Remember that apps and programs do have limitations, so be aware of those with what you choose to use.
Open communication: No security program is perfect. The most important filter is the one in a child’s own mind. Make sure your child knows that if they see or experience something unsafe online, they can safely come to you about it. Focus on building a relationship of trust so they know they won’t be in trouble if they come to you for help.
Establish ground rules: The types of online rules you set will vary from family to family. It is good practice to establish rules in an open conversation with your child. They are much more likely to comply with guidelines they feel they have had a hand in setting. Examples of rules may include when it is appropriate to use devices, what types of accounts and apps they can have, who they interact with and your expectations are for parental access or parental device check-ins.
Lead by example: Many of the problematic behaviors that lead to poor choices online are learned behaviors. Too many children are growing up watching their parents’ lives revolve around the screen in their hands. If you want to help your child develop healthy digital habits, start with yourself. Demonstrate a healthy relationship with the internet and they will learn to do the same.
Unplug: Children can’t be unsafe on the internet if they aren’t on the internet at all. Take regular family digital breaks. Introduce your children to activities you enjoyed as a kid. Play a board game. Spend time outdoors.
We’re Here to Help
At Deer Valley Credit Union, we know you want to be the best parent you can be. We are family-oriented and focused on helping you maintain the quality lifestyle you deserve. We can help you set your child up for success with a savings plan to provide for your family’s future or with accounts for your teen to help them begin learning about money management. Visit us today to see what we can offer your family in the way of financial security.
This article is intended to be a general resource only and is not intended to be nor does it constitute legal advice. Any recommendations are based on opinion only.