A Guide to Educating Your Kids About Online Safety
Never before has so much information been available to us at the literal click of a button. Improvements in technology—and access to that technology—have forever changed how we interact with the world around us. But with these advancements also comes the need to discuss Internet security, child safety, and best practices—this is your guide.
How do you balance the need for access to information with a practical and safe approach to online activity?
The first and most simple step you can take is to start a conversation with your family about online safety. What safety and privacy concerns do you have about your child accessing the Internet? Explain your concerns and outline your rules and expectations regarding technology and online access, including the consequences for breaking the rules. Discuss the importance of strong and private passwords. Remind your child not to share their passwords with anyone outside of the family and encourage them to be vigilant about signing out of accounts when accessing sites on public or shared computers.
Talk about what sites your family will be accessing and what codes of conduct you’d like to instill in your children as users of these sites. For example, if you decide to allow your children access to sites where commenting is allowed, you might want to discuss appropriate commenting behavior. Encourage children to engage in respectful discussions and to report any malicious activity or comments to you or the site’s moderator.
Using age-appropriate language, explain to your family that while there is a lot of content to learn from and enjoy online, there is also content that is not acceptable for children and should not be viewed. To protect your kids, you may want to employ a parental control or filter to block certain content from being visible on your computer.
Graphic content and inappropriate speech or behavior are not the only concerns when it comes to kids accessing the Internet. With the advent of multiple social platforms and ways to communicate, bullying and harassment have crept into online interactions with disastrous results. There is no shortage of examples of how cyberbullying can impact the victims. Discuss the role anonymity plays in online harassment and consider adapting The Golden Rule to online behavior: do unto others as you’d have done unto you. And if you wouldn’t say something to someone in person, don’t post or send it in a message online.
Practice what You Preach
It’s no secret that a lot of what kids learn, they pick up from their parents. To raise a generation of savvy Internet users, parents should be aware that what they do and how they interact with technology is setting the tone for their children’s online behavior. This includes not just online activity but how parents use electronic devices. Setting good examples, like putting away devices while at the dinner table, can influence how children interact with technology.
The Right Tools for the Job
Parental controls and filters are available on all major gaming consoles, computers, and smartphones. In addition to built-in parental controls there are many free applications you can download to help you manage, track, or filter what sites and information your children interact with online. Here are some well-known and trusted parental control apps and software.
AT&T Smart ControlsSM
Free to AT&T Internet customers, AT&T Smart Controls lets you create individual profiles for each family member and set time limits for Internet use. Certain services—email, message boards, and instant messengers—can be blocked or limited for some users.
- Create individual profiles for each family member
- View the online activity of your child and other users
- Manage settings from any web-enabled device
- Set an online timer to limit user time
- Get alerts if parental controls are tampered with
Parental Controls from Google
Google Play Parental Controls can be turned on or off and restricts what content can be purchased or downloaded. Filters for Apps, Games, Movies, and TV shows can be set to only allow content of a certain maturity level to be seen.
It should be noted that Parental Controls will not block explicit content that is shared through a direct link, which is why it is important to know what your child is doing online and who they are communicating with.
A comprehensive content filter, Net Nanny is highly regarded by industry experts as a top tool for Internet protection across all your household devices. Your family can purchase a subscription to Net Nanny to set up website filters, monitor social media sites, set time limits on Internet usage, block profanity and pornography, and more. Best of all, Net Nanny settings can be controlled remotely with cloud hosted admin control to adjust parental controls and permissions in real-time.
Parental controls are intended to protect children using the Internet, but only 11 percent of parental control apps¹ rely on the child to monitor and regulate their own behavior. ReThink is an app developed by teenager Trisha Prabhu in an effort to stop cyberbullying.
According to research done with ReThink, teens change their mind about posting an offensive message online 93 percent of the time². The basic function of ReThink is to force users to stop and think about the impact of their words in an effort to self-regulate and change harmful behavior.
Our lives have changed in remarkable ways thanks to the accessibility of technology. But with increase reward comes increased risk, and the need for honest and educated discussions around Internet privacy and safety. However you decide to broach the subject of Internet safety with your family, we hope this article could serve as a guide.