By Sgt Nathalie Ranger
Social media sites such as, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and WhatsApp increases communication, access to information and help in developing a sense of self, however, the thoughts of what your child might come across online can be worrying. Here are internet safety advice to make sure going online is a positive experience for you and your child.
Just as we prepare our kids for life in the real world, we should prepare them for life in the online world. Read on for tips that every parent should keep in mind.
Using social media sites while underage
Did you know that no one under the age of 13 is permitted to join Facebook? However, there is no real way for Facebook to truly enforce it, because anyone can lie about their year of birth. You should not allow your child to use social media until age 13 and until you are comfortable with him or her having an account. There are measures put in place, such as reporting an underage child, but ultimately, it should be the parent who has the say on when and if that account gets created.
Create Ground Rules
If your kids are old enough to be using the computer on their own, they are old enough to understand there are rules they need to abide by. Breaking them should not have a lesser consequence than if they broke a rule in the offline world. The best way for families to agree on ground rules is to create a contract that all parties must sign.
Get To Know What Your Child’s Habits Are
You do not need to be a super sleuth and spy on your kid’s every online move, but it is important to be aware of the kind of sites they are frequenting and the people they are associating with. Get to know the friends they hang out with at school, and their online friends should not be any different. One of the contract rules should be that you have full access to his online friends and can take a look whenever you wish.
Keep the Computer in a Central Location
It is much easier to keep tabs on any online activity when the computer is located in a high-traffic zone than if your child is using a computer in the privacy of their own room. Place the computer in a central location like your kitchen or family room so that everything is out in the open.
Urge Your Kids to Avoid Questionnaires, Free Giveaways and Contests
A pop-up ad appears and tells kids they can win a free iPad by simply clicking the link. Anyone would be tempted by this kind of offer, but kids are particularly susceptible, so it is important to warn kids against falling for this kind of internet trick. Many of these scams are attempts to glean personal information. Inform kids that even if they are forwarded a fun questionnaire from a friend, it is best to close the window and not participate.
Monitor the Pictures Your Child Posts Online
In an ideal world, your child would never post a photo of herself online, but that might not be entirely realistic. If she wants to share photos with her friends via email or a social networking site, be sure you know exactly which pictures are being posted. Make sure the content of the photo is completely innocuous and that no identifiable locales in the background are noticeable.
Be a Good Example of How to Use Social Media
If you are tweeting and updating your Facebook page at a stop light and taking every opportunity to “just check something,” you are setting a poor precedent for social media usage that your child will surely follow. Always remember to ask yourself if you are setting a good example and demonstrating proper technology etiquette as well.
Limit Cell Phone Use
Just as you would limit use of a computer, TV or gaming system, you can do the same with a cell phone. Set rules for the device, only allowing cell phone usage at certain hours in the evening or after homework has been completed. If you have teens of driving age, the most important rule to enforce is that under no circumstances should cell phones ever be used while driving. Phones should be kept off so incoming text sounds are not a distraction or should be kept in the glove compartment, out of reach.
Talk to Kids about Online Dangers
You may feel like you are scaring your kids when talking to them about the dangers of being online, but it is better for them to be scared than to be unaware. Having an open line of communication is crucial the minute your kids start using the internet more independently.
The best safeguard against online dangers is being informed. Jump in and learn the basics of the Internet—read articles, take a class, and talk to other parents. A good place to start with some basics is www.LearnTheNet.com. A good place to stay current with the latest in online technology is mashable.com. You do not have to be an expert to have a handle on your child’s online world.
Kids have gained a mastery of technology so quickly and can pick up on the nuances that any new gadget has, far more easily that we can in some cases. It is every parent’s responsibility to know exactly which key features are included in the gadgets our kids are using.