Parenting a tween, teenager or older? Having a talk about cyber security should be near the top of your to-do list. The old advice of keeping the family computer in the living room to monitor your kids’ internet activity is pointless in the age of everywhere-you-go mobile devices.
Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep your child safe and help them make good digital decisions down the road. The lessons you impart now can protect your child against a host of threats, both now and in the future.
Here are some do's and don'ts to follow:
- Do monitor the privacy settings—Whether it’s social media, app permissions, or installed settings like GPS location, walk your child through the process of safeguarding their privacy. It’s not enough to setup the device, you should also demonstrate how those settings are adjusted and talk about why.
- Do demonstrate safe Wi-Fi connection—Did you know that turning off your mobile device’s Wi-Fi setting will save the battery? There are good reasons to turn off the Wi-Fi when it’s not needed, including avoiding possibly dangerous public Wi-Fi connections. Talk to your young users about how to secure their devices and keep hackers out.
- Do talk about social media—A lot of the fun in having a mobile device is to stay connected to friends, but there’s nothing fun about having someone target your child via various social media platforms. Help your child understand how to secure their posts, why they should avoid friend requests from people they don’t know, and more.
- Do set standards for responsible texting—It’s not enough to tell your child not to text and drive (and you should be setting the example, too). You need to make sure they understand the dangers of “sexting,” even from an early age. They also must know that there’s nothing they can do with their mobile device that you cannot help them undo, no matter how bad they think it is.
- Don’t make the mistake of thinking your child is too young for physical dangers - Online predators have sought out very young children via different apps and platforms, and even middle schoolers are reporting issues with sexting and sextortion.
- Don’t wait to talk about identity theft—It’s never too early to worry about identity theft, and your child’s internet activity could play a role in this crime. Don’t wait to talk to them until they reach adulthood, only to find that their identities were stolen years ago.
- Don’t think cyberbullying only happens to other people—The dangers of cyberbullying are too great to ignore, and parents are right to fear the potential outcome of their child being victimized. But one conversation that often gets overlooked is what to do if your child is the cyberbully. Talk to your kids about this kind of behavior, and explain your rules for internet use. Make sure they know the legal ramifications of bullying, too.
Now that you know the do’s and don’ts, it’s time to have this conversation with your children if you haven’t already. And, if you want more on this topic, Good Digital Parenting and StaySafeOnline.org are two great resources to check out.