Rapidly evolving technolgy makes life easier in many ways, but it also means that today's parents need to have a thorough understanding of cyber safety. Tweens and teens are particularly vulnerable to online threats, so follow these 10 tech safety tips to ensure that your family is well protected.
1. Set the ground rules.
As soon as your children start to use the Internet, teach them some basic rules for online safety. While each family's specific rules might differ, important rules include:
- Never share passwords.
- Don't enter personal information such as name and address.
- Create user names that don't reveal your true identity.
- Do NOT agree to meet a stranger you meet online in person.
- Tell a parent or trusted adult if you encounter bullying or suspicious behavior.
2. Understand the technology they're using.
Forget the "I'm too old to understand Facebook" excuse — if your children are using technology you don't understand, then it's time to take a computer or social media class at your local library or community college.
According to What You Don't Know Can Hurt Your Kids, "there is no substitute for keeping up with technology." The article offers important information about the online threats that children face, and includes tips from experts about what parents need to learn in order protect teens online.
3. Be aware of ALL the technology they're using.
Today's mobile devices allow for online access anytime, anywhere, and parents need to realize that simply monitoring activity on the home computer is no longer enough. Smartphones, laptops, tablets, iPods, and even the Nintendo Wii and DS systems can all be easily connected to wireless Internet by tech savvy teens.
Parents also need to be aware that many teens set up secret accounts. By creating multiple email accounts or turning to Twitter to communicate privately, teens can be creative when it comes to avoiding the watchful eyes of their parents.
4. Set the parental controls.
If you want to automatically limit which types of online content your children can access, then you need to use the parental controls on your computer. And if your teens and tweens use smartphones or gaming systems, be sure to read this article on Setting Parental Controls on Mobile Devices as well.
5. Install monitoring software.
By installing software such as the well-reviewed WebWatcher, parents can read emails and instant messages and monitor their child's online activity from any location.
6. Monitor ALL online activity closely.
When it comes to online safety for tweens and teens, there is no substitute for good, old-fashioned parental vigilance. And at this age, safety is more important than privacy.
- Periodically view your browser's web history.
- Visit the online communities your child uses to see what information they have shared.
- Statistics show that most teens won't report suspicious online activity to their parents for fear of losing computer privileges, so keep the lines of communication open.
- Privacy comes with maturity — and teens only deserve it when they demonstrate that they're ready.
7. Know who your kids are talking to online.
Social networking sites allow teens to communicate instantly and innocently with their friends, but unfortunately, they also introduce the potential for predatory relationships. Chat rooms can be particularly dangerous, so be sure you know which ones your kids are entering and insist on knowing who they're talking to.
For more tips on how to protect kids when they're socializing online, visit The Federal Trade Commission's website OnGuardOnline.gov.
8. Learn the lingo.
Kids today have their own online language, and you can't decode a text or instant message if you still don't know what LOL means. Need a cheat sheet? Stay informed with this long list of Teen Chat Room Acronyms or get help from this article on Interpreting Internet Slang and Symbols.
9. Use the resources at your fingertips.
Cyber safety isn't a topic you need to tackle alone — there are lots of online resources devoted to helping parents learn about and address this tough issue.
- CyberSavvy Sites to Help Parents Protect Kids Online lists a variety of online resources that promote cyber safety, including several that are targeted directly at young audiences.
- Top 7 Websites to Teach Kids About Internet Safety lists websites where kids can play fun games and learn about online safety at the same time.
- InternetSafety101.org has a variety of resources for parents — including an Internet Safety Rules and Tools Checklist and Age-Based Guidelines to follow.
10. Empower them with knowledge that will last a lifetime.
By continually making online safety a priority, we can help tweens and teens learn to make better, safer choices. As parents, it's our job to protect our children from the threats that accompany today's technology — but more importantly, it is also our responsibility to teach them how to protect themselves.
How do you protect your tweens and teens online?