A number of Intivix team members have children, not all of us, but a fair amount of us. And if you bring us together, you’ll likely hear about our children. That’s a natural parental thing to do, talk about your kids because you love them that much. And when you couple the love of your own children with our focus on IT services and support, you realize that children need our help when it comes to being cyber wise. Frankly, helping kids become cyber wise has become a passion at Intivix.
Keeping kids safe in the land of technology is important and necessary. More and more kids are going online, and unfortunately, more and more hackers and predators are also going online to go after children. This isn’t a scare tactic. It’s an unfortunate fact that we are all dealing with. So, let’s dig into lessons that parents, guardians, grandparents, and more can share with kids to help them become cyber wise.
Just as we recommend in nearly all of our articles, it is important to teach children to be cautious when online. Being cautious is a very broad request, so provide some specifics your kids can focus on:
- Be skeptical of emails and attachments that you receive from people you do not know.
- Accept friend/contact requests only from people that you’ve met in person.
- Never agree to meet with someone in person that you only know online.
- Before posting something online, a photo, information, etc., ask yourself if you would share this same information with a stranger.
- Keep your location private and turn off geotagging features.
Keep in mind that these may be hard lessons for kids as they tend to be naturally trusting, and also curious. Reminding them of this information on a frequent basis is a great idea – heck these lessons are good reminders for those that are not kids as well!
Keep Personal Information Private
This is a big one and worth stressing. Things like your full name, phone number, address, email address, name of your school, name of your sports team/troop/band/other groups, and friend’s names should not be shared online. It is very easy for predators to locate these details and use that information against, or to find, a child. Further, information on where and when a child will be somewhere should also be off-limits for the same reasons. Personal information is just that, personal, and the internet is far from personal.
Create Strong Passwords
Help your child understand the importance of creating strong, secure passwords and that those passwords shouldn’t be shared, even with friends. Strong passwords can help protect their accounts from being hacked, and their information and photos from being accessed.
Your Digital Footprint
The internet isn’t private. If you’ve read even one of our other articles, you know that hackers try to access pretty much anything they can online. That includes things that kids share. And, once it is shared or posted, it is online…forever. True, some things can be deleted, but if someone else shares it before deletion, it is still out there. Let your kids know that if they want to share photos, they should only be shared with people that they know and trust. If they are sharing on a social platform, review the privacy settings with them so that both of you know how to apply them.
Bullying and cyberbullying is real, and it is critical that this is explained to children to help them understand why it is wrong and what to do if it happens to them. According to StopBullying.gov, “cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content.”
And according to an McAfee article, “Eighty-seven percent [of teens] have witnessed cyberbullying and 26% have been victims themselves.”
Rather than shy away from this topic with your children, discuss it, and discuss it again. Understanding cyberbullying is a critical component of being cyber wise.
A Safe Support Team
We all know things happen. Make sure to let your kids know that if they accidentally share something or someone approaches them online, that is demonstrating inappropriate behavior that they can talk to you about it. And when they do, do your best to stay calm and thank them for telling you. From there you can determine the best course of action, whether it is deleting a post or contacting the local authorities if needed. The bottom line is that kids need someone they can trust if something does happen.
Outside of teaching your children how to be cyber wise, there are also a few things that you can do as parents/guardians to keep your children safe online:
- Lead by example and follow the same guidelines that you give to your children, including those noted above.
- Review and understand the privacy settings that are available. Most browsers have parental controls, for example, Google’s SafeSearch filter which filters out explicit content. Parental control software and apps can also be purchased, which can block even more explicit content.
- Install security software to scan all file downloads.
- Install file-sharing software properly and teach kids how to use it properly.
- Monitor time online by giving them time limits and request that they use the internet in your vicinity. This one may be tough, but it will help you keep an eye on things.
- Stay up-to-date on the social networks that your children are using, and understand their privacy policies. You may even want to sign-up for the same social networks, so you truly know how they work.
- Regularly review the apps installed on their phones (if they have one) and ensure you understand what each app is.
Eventually, your children will grow up, and they will be going online outside of your home if they aren’t already. As parents and guardians, we can help instill strong online behavior and good thinking by discussing what good behavior is at home, multiple times. Think of these conversations as another way of keeping your child safe. That’s how we see it at Intivix.