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One of the issues I’ve been struggling with over the past ten or so years is how to protect kids online. The Internet offers a world of opportunities. People of all ages share photos and videos, build online profiles, text each other and create alter egos in the form of online avatars. These ways of socializing and communicating can be fulfilling, and yet, they come with risks:
- Inappropriate Conduct: The online world can convey a false sense of anonymity and kids sometimes forget that their online actions have real-world consequences.
- Inappropriate Contact: There are people out there that have bad intentions; predators, bullies and scammers.
- Inappropriate Content: Kids can easily come across pornography, violence or hate speech online.
Some questions to ask yourself as an adult:
- Do you think your child knows more about the Internet and technology than you do?
- Do you think you know more about communicating respectfully off-line than your child does (parents don’t have to be tech-savvy to know a lot that’s relevant to this topic)?
- How much time do you think your kid spends online each day? Each week? That includes time on their phones!
- What are your kids’ favorite websites or online games?
- Do your kids have their own computers? Do they have cell phones?
- Do you supervise what your kids do while online and offer guidance, or are they allowed free rein?
- What are your main concerns about online safety?
- Do you text? Do you text with your children?
It’s also a good idea to talk with your kids about online safety. To kick things off, here are some questions you can ask your kids:
- How much time do you spend online?
- What do you like to do online?
- Do you sleep with your cell phone in reach?
- Do you post pictures online?
- Have you every posted or sent anything you later regretted?
- Have you or one of your friends ever received a text message that was hurtful or mean-spirited?
- Have you ever talked to your parents about something that bothered you online?
- Have you ever talked to another adult bout something that bothered you online?
Make your conversation interactive. Ask your kids how they might have handled an incident that involved sharing too much information, cyberbullying, posting embarrassing photos or sexting.
For more information, the US Government has created OnGuardOnline.gov, a site that provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology community to help you guard against internet fraud, secure your computers and protect your privacy. The project is managed by the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency, and includes more than a dozen federal agencies.
- OnGuardOnline.gov - Practical tips from the federal government and the technology community to help people be on guard against Internet fraud, secure their computers and protect their privacy.
- FTC.gov/idtheft - The Federal Trade Commission's website has information to help people deter, detect and defend against identity theft.
- StaySafeOnline.org - The National Cyber Security Alliance seeks to create a culture of cyber security and safety awareness by providing knowledge and tools to prevent cyber crime and attacks.
- CommonSenseMedia.org - Common Sense Media is dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing trustworthy information, education and voice they need to thrive in a world of media and technology.
- GetNetWise.org - A project of the Internet Education Foundation, the GetNetWise coalition provides Internet users the resources to make informed decisions about their and their family's use of the Internet.
- CyberBully411.org - CyberBully411 is an effort to provide resources for youth who have questions about or have been targeted by online harassment.
- ConnectSafely.org - ConnectSafely is for parents, teens, educators and advocates for learning about safe, civil use of Web 2.0 together.
- iKeepSafe.org - iKeepSafe educational resources teach children of all ages, in a fun, age-appropriate way, the basic rules of Internet safety, ethics and the healthy use of connected technologies.
- NetFamilyNews.org - A nonprofit news service for parents, educators, and policymakers who want to keep up on the latest technology news and commentary about online youth, in the form of a daily blog or weekly email newsletter.
- NetSmartz.org - The NetSmartz Workshop is an interactive, educational safety resource from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
- WiredSafety.org - WiredSafety provides help, information and education to Internet and mobile device users of all ages.