Internet safety is more of a concern for parents than ever as kids head back to school, because these days, it’s more likely that their children will be using the web – not a pencil and note pad – to do everything from complete homework, write papers and do research. Even the youngest of children are likely savvy technology consumers, thanks to the abundance of kid-friendly apps for tablets and iPhone. With email hacking, cyber-bullying, internet scams and online predators more prevalent than ever, here are a few tips – straight from the pros behind the free e-book “Growing Up Online” – to help parents ensure a safe digital world for their kids.
Understand your child’s online world
Kids are connected 24/7 to technology – and it’s important to embrace its role in their lives, says Maria Alvarez, a spokesperson with Common Sense Media, a media and tech non-profit who helped develop the tips in “Growing Up Online.”
“Kids today have two lives – their real life and their virtual life,” says Alvarez, who is mother to two boys. “Our role as parents is to help kids navigate the two in order to make healthy decisions. You wouldn’t leave your kids in the jungle without protection – and the same goes for letting them navigate technology without guidance.” If parents understand how their children use technology and the web, than they can better prepare them for discussions about online safety and online manners.
Make online safety a priority
Parents know that they should talk about sex, drug use and alcohol with their kids – but more than ever, online safety should be the topic of conversation too. Issues like maintaining privacy, sexting and cyber bullying should be discussed, says Alvarez. “Let them know that you understand the role of technology in their lives,” she shares. “But let them know that their responsibility is to uphold the rules and standards of technology users – and that there are consequences if they don’t.”
Alvarez also suggests that parents keep computers and tablets in common family areas – like the kitchen – rather than in their children’s bedrooms. She also recommends parents also periodically check the browser history on their kid’s computer or tablet in order to keep tabs on what types of sites are being visited.
Review programs and applications
If Junior is begging to play a game that all the kids are enjoying, take a minute to test out the game yourself, suggests Alvarez.
“Parents should test the products their kids are using,” says Alvarez, who writes about Internet safety for Baby Center en Español. “It’s then easier to filter content for age-appropriate content.”
Model good habits
As a parent, do you institute a “no phones” rule at the dinner table but frequently whip out your own phone to check Facebook between bites? That should be a no-no for adults, says Alvarez.
“We need to be their role model in all areas, including technology – because kids inevitably will copy our habits,” she explains. So put the Blackberry away during meals and shut your tablet off during family time, because if mom and dad show how important it is to disconnect, than “kids will get it,” notes Alvarez.
For more online safety tips for kids – and parents! – download “Growing Up Online,” available for free on iTunes, Apple’s iBookstore for iPad and iPad Mini, Barnes and Noble’s Nook Tablet, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, Kobo, as well as online for desktop and laptop viewing at www.themoreyouknow.com.