Online Safety Tips for Kids:

Parent’s Guide to Keeping Your Child Safe On the Internet

Article by:  Vince Delisi for OurKids.net, Canada’s trusted source for camps and schools.

The Internet—whether accessed through a computer, iPad or Smartphone—has opened a world of opportunities for our children to learn, engage and express themselves. But the Internet can also pose some risk for your child:

  • 93% of teens (12-17) are online and 73% of teens (12-17) have profiles on social networking sites.
  • 4% of youths received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to contact the youth offline.
  • In 27% of cases, solicitors asked youths for sexual photographs of themselves.

At HTS, a private day school, we are implementing programs for our students to use iPads and new computer technology in the classroom, to enhance the learning experience. But because these devices often enable students to access the Internet, we have to be cautious at school and recommend that you be equally cautious in your home and in friends’ homes. As the teacher who manages the online security for the school, I’ve compiled my most effective tips for parents to keep their children safe and secure online.

Tip #1: Establish strict online guidelines for your children and monitor that they’re being followed
Before discussing online safety with children, parents must ensure they are familiar with the sites children use, the threats that exist, and what solutions are available to help. They should establish rules to govern how their children use the Internet. These should identify specifically which social networking sites are allowed, how they should be used, and the rules of online conduct.

Suggested guidelines to follow:

  • Children under 10 should be allowed to use the Internet only with their parents. Use family safety tools like Rogers Parental Controls or Windows Live Family Safety to create appropriate profiles for each family member and to help filter Internet sites.
  • Use your pop-up blocker at all times. Continue to monitor your children’s Internet usage between 11 and 14 years of age.
  • Computers should not be located in bedrooms. Instead, place them in common areas of your home.
  • Never let children use the Internet behind closed doors, especially with friends.

As well, children should know the consequences for not following these rules. Let them know their social networking profiles will be cancelled and online privileges revoked if they disobey.

Tip #2: Teach your children never to disclose personal information online
Explain why sharing personal information can be dangerous and list the specific do’s and don’ts of sharing info online. Children should never share the following information with others online:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Password(s) – According to a study by Teen Angels of Wired Safety.org, 75% of eight to nine-year-olds shared passwords with someone else, and 66% of girls, 12 -18, said they shared their passwords with someone else
  • Any specific plans that would let a person know where they will be at any given time
  • Credit card or other payment information
  • Pictures of themselves or their friends

Tip #3: Recognize the dangers of cyberbullying
Contrary to popular belief, one of the most dangerous threats children and teens encounter online is cyberbullying. A 2011 survey reported that 11% of teens say they have been bullied online or via text. Girls report a higher incidence of bullying (15%) than boys (7%).

The best way for parents to prevent cyberbullying is to educate children on what it is and to encourage them to talk to you if they encounter anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable, scared or worried. They need to understand you are there to help them address any cyberbullying encounters.

Tip #4: Safe social networking
The most important lesson in social networking is that anything posted on a social network profile can be accessed by others online – no matter what level of security is set on the profile.

  • Most social networking sites have age limits to protect children so be sure they are using only age appropriate sites.
  • Discuss each site’s privacy policy and how it affects use of the site.
  • Review your child’s profiles on a regular basis.
  • Children must know social networking sites are for keeping in touch with friends and family, not to meet new people. They should never meet anyone in person they’ve met online.

Educating kids about online safety is just as important as any other lesson in safety these days and with the right resources and approach we can teach kids how to address these issues before any serious problems arise.

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