From the time they are very young, children learn from parents about safety: fire safety, crossing the street, talking to strangers, and how to respond in an emergency. When teens are learning to drive, they go through driver’s education to learn the rules of the road and to drive safely for themselves and others.
And yet, we have been left to our own devices to be safe in an ever-expanding world that we are all navigating: the online world. The time we spend online fulfills many needs, such as work, school, entertainment, connecting with new and old friends, and learning. However, like the real world, there are also dangers and lessons to learn about safety online. It’s up to you to stay safe online.
It’s Up to You. IU2U.
Having conversations, making decisions, and regularly discussing the online world will help you and your family remain safe online.
Talk about internet safety and develop an online safety plan with your children. Have conversations together about your family rules for being online. Discuss the red flags you want them to tell you about and have regular and ongoing conversations about their internet activities.
- Be involved in their online worlds, which are increasingly becoming a large part of their lives. Periodically checking your children’s social media profiles and posts, internet activities, and online friends is equally important to being involved in their sports, homework, and friend groups.
- Establish rules that electronic devices stay in open, common areas of the home, and consider limiting time for internet-enabled devices in private areas like bedrooms and bathrooms.
- Ensure you are aware of your children’s online privacy settings and use parental controls for online games, apps, social media, and gaming devices for younger children. Have conversations and establish rules, communication, and trust with teens in their online worlds.
- Remind children that personal information, photos, and videos online are permanently on the internet, even if they “disappear.” Every image and video can be captured, saved, or shared forever. Discuss that even if someone they meet online may seem to be someone similar in age, they do not know them in real life and may not be who they say they are.
- Encourage children to tell a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult if anyone asks them to engage in sexual activity or other inappropriate behavior.
Have the conversation about online predators.
Kids and Teens
Remember that the safety decisions you make in real life also apply to your online life. There will be times you have to make decisions without your parents / caregivers around. Sometimes, you make decisions you feel comfortable about in the moment, but later that changes. Talking with your parents or a trusted adult can be difficult, but it’s necessary. It’s Up to You to make safe decisions and to ask for help if you make a mistake.
- Talk with the adults in your life about your online world. This is where you spend a lot of time. Even if it may not seem like it, they really do want to know about what’s going on.
- Be open and talk about situations that are fun and exciting, as well as ones that seem confusing, scary, and difficult.
- Follow the online rules that your family has set. You may not agree with them all, and some may seem stupid. However, they are for your safety as well as your family’s. Earn and keep their trust.
- If someone you didn’t know approached you while you were at a restaurant and asked you for your phone number, address, email, or asked for a nude photo, or to talk with you in a sexual manner, you probably wouldn’t give them what they wanted. In fact, you probably would tell them to go away and ask for help. This is the same thing that needs to happen online. You don’t really know who someone is online unless you know them in the real world. Even then, some information is not for sharing.
- Remember that anything, and everything, you do online is permanent. It will never go away. Even if an app says it disappears, isn’t saved, or is marked as private, it really isn’t. Anything you put online can be saved, copied, stored, and shared forever.
- Talk with adults in your life about anything that makes you feel unsafe and uncomfortable. And, if you think someone you know may be in danger, or has had something happen to them online, tell a trusted adult.