Technology has changed the way we live, but it has also introduced new dangers from which we need to protect our families.
Child predators often use social media and the internet to identify and target child victims. Social media has also given rise to a new form of schoolyard intimidation – cyber bullying. Every parent should know how to protect their children online, but many may not know where to start. Below are a few practical tips for parents:
Get wise about online privacy. Review the privacy settings on social networks and websites that your children frequent and use them to limit who can view your child’s profile. Minimize the amount of publicly available personal information such as phone numbers, email addresses, where they live, birthdates, family financial information and other identifying information shared online. Even with the most stringent privacy settings, a lot can be deduced about a person by what they post. Help your kids understand what information is okay to share and what should not be shared at all.
Go where your kids go. Join the social media sites your children use to see what types of comments, images and videos they are posting or being exposed to. Joining your kid’s social networks will not only help you spot suspicious social interactions - you may also get some day-to-day insight about thoughts and feelings that they aren’t telling you.
Keep the family computer out in the open. Granted, this won’t work for cell phones, tablets and other mobile devices, but keeping the family computer in a highly-trafficked area will discourage your kids from going to inappropriate sites. Kids who primarily access the internet in their room are more likely to seek out unsuitable content, interact with potentially dangerous people, or take foolish risks.
Talk to them. Even if it doesn’t always seem to be the case, kids want your guidance and wisdom on confusing topics like emotions, health, friendships and relationships. Let your kids know you accept and are open to any question about these or other difficult topics. You may feel distress when talking about sensitive topics, but you can listen and guide lovingly, even when you are worried.
For more information please see OnGuardOnline.gov, an in-depth resource from the federal government and technology industry to help parents learn more about internet safety.
DOJ offers free presentations on internet safety. If you are a member of your local PTA or another school or community group and would like to learn more about this opportunity, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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