Tips & Advice

Top 6 online safety tips for parents

Larry Larsen, Director of Cyber Security

The Internet is a fantastic source of information, educational materials, and entertainment, but it has also become a distressingly efficient way for youngsters to easily access to indecent material. Similarly, it also makes it easier for criminals and predators to find victims and it can serve as a platform for cyberbullies.

As parents it’s our responsibility to ensure that access to web content is controlled or blocked on our home computers, and it’s important to monitor what our kids do, even on their own personal devices. Until they’re 18 and on their own, YOU are in control of what they see online.

Most good Internet security application providers have parental control and monitoring software available for purchase. PC Magazine recently published an overview of the best parental control software available to help consumers choose the best product for their individual needs. Beyond simply monitoring or blocking unsavory websites, parents must also be vigilant on social media—a primary outlet where criminals target victims.

It’s all too easy for a predator to pose as somebody else to lure their victims. That’s why it’s critical that you know, not just names of ‘friends’ and contacts, but who they are behind the screen.

Here are 6 ways you can help minimize risk and keep your kids safe:

Keeps the lines of communication open. If it’s appropriate, talk to your children about why you’re monitoring their online presence, focus on their safety and be as frank as their age allows on the risks.

Crack the code. Kids have their own crypto-shorthand and acronyms, sometimes known as cyberslang. Parents need to recognize these code words to help protect their children. Supervise use of all Internet-enabled devices. Keep your child’s computer/laptop in an open area of your home. Monitor other points of Internet access including your child’s cell phone, portable music device, smart TV, and gaming device.*

Know your child’s online activities and friends. Be familiar with each of your children’s passwords, screen names, and all account information, and have them provide the identities of every person they have “friended” on social networking or gaming sites. Caution your children to only communicate online with people they know in-person and who have been approved by you. Remind your children that the people they meet online may not be who they say they are.*

Supervise the photos and videos your kids post and send online and through their mobile device. Photos and videos can be uploaded instantly and may make your child vulnerable to online predators, cyberbullies, and strangers, or lead to damaged reputations. Be especially careful allowing kids to use webcams in private areas.*

Instruct your children to never meet face-to-face with someone they only know online or through their mobile device. Online and mobile ‘friends’ may not be who they say they are. Children should be advised to come to you if anyone makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, asks for any personal or personally identifiable information, or suggests meeting them.*

Teach your children how to respond to cyberbullies. Children do not have to accept any online activity meant to intimidate, threaten, tease, or harm them or anyone else. Watch out for warning signs, including reluctance to go to school and reluctance to use the Internet; be aware of a change in your child’s behavior and mood. Report any offensive or dangerous e-mail, chat, or other communications to local law enforcement. Do not delete the evidence.*

If you’re looking for more information, websites such as Enough.org and GetNetWise.org have a wealth of information about safe surfing for youngsters, and evenhanded monitoring ideas for parents and caregivers.

The most critical element to remember… if you suspect your child – of any age – has been approached online or on the street by a suspicious person, has been bullied online in any venue, or otherwise feels victimized by a person or persons they met through the Internet, contact your local Police Department immediately. They have officers and investigators trained specifically to handle situations involving children and teens, and should be the first call you make. Feelings come later; your child’s safety comes first.

*Source: InternetSafety101.org. Internet Safety Rules