With technology on the rise, online safety is a concern for many parents. The Internet has evolved greatly over the past several years and now practically anything can be accessed with one click. There is an infinite amount of information online that can be attained in a matter of seconds. Searching the web has become a tool that practically anyone is capable of using including elementary and middle school aged children. Monitoring your child’s activity online can prevent them from making the grave mistake of putting too much of their personal information in the wrong hands. It is crucial that as a parent, you oversee the sites your child visits, what they post, the usernames and passwords they make, and what details they are sharing with others. The World Wide Web can be an advantageous tool in many ways; the key is to utilize it properly.
In today’s world it would be extremely difficult to keep your children from the Internet entirely. Rather than restricting them from learning how technology works, guide them to use it in a way that is the most beneficial for them. Your child is probably taught about safety in school, but are they given extensive education on Internet safety? If the answer is no, then it is time to start showing your kids the proper way to use the Internet for their benefit. There is no rulebook to safety, but there are always ways that it can be improved upon. Some actions you may want to take include:
Sit down at a computer with your kids:
Children learn by example. If you give them the tools to explore the Internet safely, they will apply them when they are left on their own. Familiarize them with the dangers of the Internet, but not in a way that will scare them. It is important that they understand the caution they must take when online. Discuss fun and safe ways that they can make use of technology. Show them appropriate sites that you feel comfortable letting them go on. Do not let them be fearful of the Internet; rather let them know to be cautious of their information.
Tell them what information should never be posted:
It is very important that children know specifically which information should not be shared with anyone. If you are too general with them about what is off limits they may be confused or uncertain and post it anyway. The main things they should never share are their phone number, address, or exact location. It is also important to be very careful about what pictures they are posting. Posting inappropriate pictures of themselves or anyone else can cause a lot of issues. Asking them to show you what picture they are going to use or post can help make sure they are being careful with what they share.
Explain stranger danger:
People are not always who they say they are, especially behind a screen. The danger of a stranger coming up to your child is not only a problem in real life. The Internet is open to everyone, and this allows a number of people to have access to or be able to contact your child, depending on the website they visit. Always be sure the person you are talking to is who they say they are. It is never okay to take a risk in talking to someone you may not know. Be sure to let your child know that if they feel threatened by someone online or are uncomfortable, that they should stop responding and find a parent to address the problem. Responding to inappropriate or rude messages only makes situations worse and is never beneficial for your child.
Discuss privacy settings:
Websites/apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and many others, do not automatically make your information private. These websites are set to be public when you first sign up. It is up to the user to go into settings and manually change whatever they need in order for their information to be private. A good way to make sure your child’s account is private is to log on to a different account and view your child’s page. If there appears to be information that is still visible, be sure to have your child make the necessary changes to protect that information. Even when the proper security measures are taken, there are still ways to get around these settings. Nothing your child posts online is ever one hundred percent secure. There are always ways to search information that you thought could not be accessed.
Monitor their sharing:
Explaining to your children that any information that goes online stays there permanently will help them realize how important it is to think about what they post. Any previous post can come back to haunt you. The way you create your identity online is how others will perceive you. There are a lot of pressures on pre-teen and teen-aged children today to appear a particular way on social media. The things other children post online can be harsh and it is important to protect your kids from this negative online behavior. Encouraging children to be true to themselves on and off line will help them to realize that they do not need to post anything inappropriate to gain attention.
Never share a password:
Your child may want or ask to give their password to their best friend. Do not let them share their passwords with anyone for any reason. There is never a situation when someone else will need to know your child’s password besides yourself. Sharing passwords can lead to your child’s information getting into the wrong hands. Even if this person is a trusted friend, there is still no way of knowing if it will be accidentally passed along or not. Keep passwords private and make them complicated. Adding symbols and numbers to the end of passwords helps to make them stronger and more difficult to crack. Help your child come up with a few passwords that they can use now and in the future.
Do not download anything unusual:
There will be a place to download something on practically every website. The majority of the time this free download is some sort of a scam that may put a virus on your computer. There are other downloads that allow someone to be able to view all of your past and present history and access your information. If something pops up on your child’s screen, tell them to quickly cancel out of it and close the website. If a website has pop-ups it is probably not a secure site to be on in the first place.
After discussing all of these precautions with your child be sure to explain to them that technology is beneficial. Many times, children are deterred from using the Internet because parents believe it to be a harmful place. In actuality, it is a great resource for education, general learning, research, and understanding technology. The Internet is unavoidable and every child must have knowledge of it from an early age. Today, children use technology from kindergarten all the way through their college years and eventually into their careers. It is a tool used to help enhance their future. The online world is a place everyone should be familiar with. This is not the time to shy away from the Internet or to make your children afraid of it. There are many ways to safely use the Internet and use it to help you work through problems and tasks. It would be detrimental to not properly educate your children on technology.
In regards to schools, safety should be the number one priority. FERPA or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act has insured that schools take important steps in maintaining students safety. Generally, schools must have a written consent before they give away any personal information of the student. Security and law enforcement also contribute to keeping students safe. If threatening remarks are made about another student and a teacher overhears this, that teacher is allowed to contact authorities and share the student’s information with them. This is to protect the overall well being of all the students. If ever a harmful or inappropriate situation occurs, administration has the right to step in and give information to law enforcement.
Many schools have a security staff that patrol around campuses to ensure that nothing out of the ordinary occurs. This law enforcement staff is typically given some of the student’s records, but their main goal is to protect the privacy of these records. The use of security cameras also improves safety. These videotapes are only shared with parents if their student is on the video. Law enforcement manages the security cameras and determines what is threatening to safety. Technology is continuously making kids safer and making schools smarter. New innovative products help to ensure that a child is protected under any circumstance. It is important, as parents, administrators, or teachers to ensure schools are doing everything in their power to keep students as safe as possible. Exploring new technologies and researching more efficient ways to conduct the school day can save you from a lot of anxiety and frustration.