Keeping Kids Safe Online
Omaha, Neb. – Did your son or daughter receive a new technology device this holiday season? For the first time they now have access to texting, downloading music, taking and receiving photos, instant messaging, social media apps, watching videos, etc. In addition they have access to being bullied or engaging in bullying behavior, meeting strangers, and talking to people who are not necessarily who they say they are. That’s a lot of access at the tip of our children’s fingers. Not-to-mention that is a lot to manage as a parent. Project Harmony offers some general tips and guidance to help you make good decisions about what apps and rules your kids need in order to use the internet safely.
Make sure to have ongoing conversations with your children and set technology boundaries to help them have a safer digital experience.
General Tips & Guidance
- Make sure your child’s school or other youth-serving organizations have and enforce communication policies that protect children. Teachers and other youth workers should not be communicating privately with children. Instead, they should use group texts, messages, or other communications that include parents.
- Tell your children to never give out identifying information such as their name, address, neighborhood, phone number, school information, or extracurricular activities.
- Tell your children to let you know immediately if someone asks for pictures or personal information.
- Be aware of what apps your kids are using and know their capabilities. Is there a chat function? Are they chatting or playing with strangers? CommonSenseMedia.org is a great resource that provides reviews of commonly used apps and video games among youth.
- Set reasonable time limits on computers and smartphones. Have rules around where devices are kept and can be used.
- Use a parent or caregiver’s name and email when signing up for games or apps. This ensures you are the primary contact rather than your child.
- Talk to your children about inappropriate questions and language. Use age-appropriate examples.
- Smartphones and tablets have a location services feature that allows devices to broadcast their location to the user’s apps and contacts. Ensure this feature is turned off.
- For older kids, talk to them about sexting and cyber-bullying. Explain the long-term consequences of sending sexual messages or pictures. Discuss the dangers and permanence of communication sent digitally, even if it claims to be private or self-destructing. Consider using a social media contract so expectations are clear.
- Let your children know you respect their privacy, but will periodically monitor use, including emails, photos, messaging, and apps.
Like most conversations about safety, this is an ongoing one. Check-in often and remind your children that they can talk to you about anything and they can come to you if anyone makes them feel uncomfortable.
If your child is subjected to inappropriate content, cyberbullying, or even sextortion, make sure they know they are not at fault. We have learned that if a child thinks he/she will be punished for receiving inappropriate content or cyberbullying – they will not tell a trusted adult. Talk to your child, collect evidence (emails, texts, screenshots, etc.), and contact the police if physical threats are involved.