Keeping kids safe has always been a difficult task, but with the advances in technology moving so quickly it has become even more difficult. Not only is the age-old issue of children wanting their independence and privacy present, but sometimes it seems like kids are speaking another language when they talk about the latest innovation in social networking. Parents do not need to have a degree in computer science to keep their children away from most danger on the Internet. Keeping kids safe while online is a huge priority for most people and there are many ways parents can take advantage of pre-existing settings and tested methods to keep their young ones away from danger.
- Use Safety and Privacy Settings: Just because a child isn’t looking for inappropriate content while online doesn’t mean it isn’t looking for them. A search for the newest Justin Beiber YouTube video can lead straight to results that have nothing to with the pop music sensation. Google has created an excellent resource for those wanting to know more about safety settings on YouTube and Google.
- Teach Them to Avoid Oversharing: Revealing too much information on social networking sites is dangerous for anyone, but can be incredibly dangerous for children. \ Predators seek out children online via social networking sites. Information such as a child’s school, sports team, family members or the names of their pets can be used by predators to get closer to a child. Pictures also provide invaluable information for someone looking for children to abuse. Picture uploading should be kept to a minimum and geotagging should be disabled from any pictures that are put up.
- Introduce Your Child to Networks Designed for Them: There is an incredible amount of information on adult social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Not all of this content is appropriate for all ages. A new trend has developed in creating entire social networking sites specifically for younger people. Togetherville has been created for children under ten. Users can interact much like “adult” social networks, but usage can be monitored and content is age appropriate. Everloop is another site aimed at those too young for Facebook, but too old for the simplicity of Togetherville.
- Teach Them About Malware: You do not have to be an IT expert to help your children understand malware. Those nasty viruses, Trojan horses and spyware can easily be explained to children by comparing them to their real life germ counterparts. Children need to know that they can infect their computer with malware by clicking on random links, visiting certain websites and downloading media.
- Create a Cyberbullying Plan: Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can break hearts. Just as in the real world, there are bullies in the virtual world and the anonymity that users often enjoy on the Internet can cause cyberbullying to be particularly nasty. Children do not want to be “tattle tails”, but if the abuse goes unreported in can have devastating effects. Create a plan for your child so that they can report abuse confidentially and promptly. Make sure they know the importance of stopping cyberbullying by reporting it properly.
- Talk to your Children: The best way for you to know what your child is doing online and keep them safe is to talk with them. Daily conversations about what they learned or who they talked to online can be the best defense in rooting out potential predators or inappropriate content. Though a four hour conversation about how Justin dumped Madeline probably will not pique the interest of most adults, the other people involved in the conversation, what they discussed and how they found out should be.
While the methods of communication have changed drastically in the recent past, the basic rule remains the same. Nothing can replace communication between a parent and a child in keeping that child safe. The world can be a scary place and the virtual world can be even scarier. Arming children with enough information to help themselves stay away from danger coupled with set guidelines and settings can keep them safe…. and keep parents (somewhat) sane.