Planning to get your kids a smartphone or tablet this holiday season? With schools using technology in classes and kids being exposed to these devices at an early age, the question is often a matter of when, not if. Parents may have questions and concerns about how to keep kids safe online. Here are some tips and resources that can help.
Set the rules
The first thing you can do to help protect your children online is to set ground rules:
- Outline how much time during the day they can spend on the device
- Establish who your children can call
- Discuss how to behave respectfully online
For a fee, many cell phone providers offer parental controls and location services to help you manage usage times and limit who your child can place calls to and receive calls from.
You may also want to consider having your child sign a cell phone contract with you.
Social networking safety
With devices come apps, and many social networking apps involve setting up a profile and sharing information around common interests or activities. These apps can be fun and addicting, but if you aren’t familiar with them yourself, they can be intimidating. Check out the sites and services your child uses.
Discuss what is and is not appropriate to post, so that your child doesn’t share more information online than you are comfortable with. The following tips from the National Crime Prevention Council can help your child think before he or she posts:
- Should I share this? Will the information I share put me or someone else in danger?
- Do people really need to know where I am and who I am with? Is it a good idea to let everyone know my exact location?
- Am I selecting online friends that I can trust? It’s not just about what I post, but how others may use that content.
- Is the information I am sharing transparent? Before I share information to the public, does my post give out too much personal information?
Prevent cyber bullying
Cyber bullying involves threats or harassment that happens online. This can be words or pictures that are posted with the intention of hurting someone’s reputation or feelings. The OnGuardOnline website sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission gives tips to recognize and prevent cyber bullying and provides additional resources for parents. The Cyberbullying Research Center also provides guidelines for parents.