As a parent, the only difficult discussion you thought you had to have with your children was the one about the "birds and the bees". In this day and age you may also find yourself discussing online issues such as "likes" and "selfies", or "trolls" and "cyber bullies". Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt predicted that online identities would become so important, parents would need to talk with their kids about online privacy long before they even gave them the "sex talk'".
The development of the internet has certainly created a much more engaged, entertaining and educational world. Kids today are proving to be just as tech savvy as their parents, in fact in many cases they are more so because of how prevalent technology and social media usage is around their peers. Just you try and tell your own son or daughter that they can't have a tablet or phone to play with! Schools have even integrated computers and the internet into everyday learning.
While the internet has opened up a world of possibilities for your child's future, it has also gone on to administer a range of risks and challenges. Right now children are more vulnerable to exposure from content that is sexually explicit, violent or illegal. In addition, children are dealing with unpleasant activity such as cyber bullying or being contacted from strangers. These seem to be far more common experiences for children than getting scraped knees in the playground. Parents need to realise that protecting their children from online harm is just as vital as it is in the real world. The responsibility falls directly on their shoulders to educate their children so they have a safe and positive experience online, every time.
So how do you open the dialogue of cyber safety with your family? Firstly you need to remember your child is never too young to learn the importance of cyber security. If they are old enough to use your phone or tablet, they need to be taught what is acceptable and unacceptable online behaviour, and what they need to be careful of.
Even if your children are browsing the internet with you, it is never too early to start. In fact, you will find that when they are browsing with you at home is the perfect time to highlight the wide range of cyber-safety concerns. Cyber security and online issues should be treated just like life's other important matters. It is crucial that you make topics around the internet and safety an open and frank discussion for your family, and not an inquisition on your children's habits.
Here are some basic lessons for your family that will help ensure that they are browsing safely.
17 TIPS FOR SAFE INTERNET BROWSING
TIP 1 Remember it is important to educate early and often about the dangers of the internet.
TIP 2 Know what your children are doing online. It is common sense that young children should not be browsing unaccompanied. Teach them very early on that when they go online, they need you to be available. As they get older, this can become more difficult, but you need to be as vigilant as possible, and monitor what and when you can.
TIP 3 Discuss the online risks with your family and agree on rules for internet usage. If you have a home PC, keep this in a family area of the home or make sure your children use their iPads/tablets around you.
TIP 4 Make sure your home computer and devices are protected with reputable security software. You should also ensure that your children are using only secure websites.
TIP 5 Implement strong passwords across your home devices, and reinforce with your children just how important it is not to share their passwords with anyone, including their friends.
TIP 6 Remind your children not to accept friendship requests from people that they don't know and to never chat privately with a stranger. This includes never meeting anyone in person that they have communicated with online only.
TIP 7 If your children are on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, for example, set the rule that they can only use that app if you are connected with them.
TIP 8 Request to check on your child's devices regularly. It is good to check what apps they have installed, and if you are not aware of what these apps are, then sign up yourself or do your own research.
TIP 9 As a parent you set the boundaries. If they refuse to follow any rules you have put in place to protect them, you can have their social media account removed or you can set specific parameters with internet-filtering tools.
TIP 10 It is vital children learn to protect their personal information, so you need to emphasise what information should be kept private. This information includes full name, address, date of birth, phone numbers, school etc. You also need to be aware of any possible identifiable information on their profiles.
TIP 11 Whether you are posting photos of your children or they are posting photos themselves, be conscious that photos can reveal a lot of personal information about your child or your family, so encourage them not to post photos of themselves or their friends with clearly identifiable details.
TIP 12 Reiterate to your children that if they wouldn't behave that way in a face to face manner, they should not be doing it online. Older children such as teens, need to remember that everything they do online is out there in cyberspace forever, and once they've written or posted something personal it cannot be deleted.
TIP 13 Encourage children to be wary of what they download. Get them in the habit of not downloading 'free' stuff such as games and ringtones, or opening links that could be hiding malware. Kids should not be downloading anything without your permission and you need to ensure that it is from a trusted source, or it has been scanned with security software.
TIP 14 If your children happen to use public computers, make sure they log off before they leave.
TIP 15 There are plenty of online issues discussed in the media, so be sure to explain these with your children. Some of these issues may include cyberbullying, depression, sexting, pedophiles, scammers, celebrity photo hacking and other inappropriate content.
TIP 16 Encourage your children to chat freely with you if they have any concerns about being online. These occurrences may leave your child feeling anxious, uncomfortable, or threatened. They should also be encouraged to report anything 'unusual' that happens while they are using the internet.
TIP 17 Don't be afraid to ask your kids questions, such as "What are your friends doing online?" or "What websites are you and your friends visiting?". Get them to show you their favourite sites, this will also help give you peace of mind.
Discussing online security might seem too technical for your children, but think about the conversations you have with your children about crossing the road or stranger danger- the internet should be treated in exactly the same way. By taking an active role in talking to your children about what to do online, the associated risks, and answering their questions and concerns, the easier it will be for them to develop better online habits, and be able to enjoy the internet safely.
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