Internet rules for back to school

Teen boy and girl looking at mobile phone.

With summer coming to an end, you and your tween or teen are likely gathering all the right school supplies — including tech gear like tablets and cellphones. In the rush to get in end of summer vacation plans and begin school preparations, don’t forget to highlight online safety with your teen. As you hand over a device, consider these tips to help kids stay safe online away from home.

Help your children search safely

Protect your child from online threats like inappropriate sites, phishing scams or malware, and install web-filtering software. It may limit your child’s access to certain sites, words and images. You can also take advantage of child-safe search browsers designed to protect children online.

Teach them good online etiquette

Remind your tween or teen that social media posts and images shared online have consequences offline. Once posted, messages can’t be taken back. Even if the message is deleted, it may still exist on other people’s computers and circulate online. Encourage your children to be careful about the language, pictures and videos they post. Tell them to treat others online the way they want to be treated in real life.

Get connected when they’re connected

Just as you want to know your child’s offline friends, it’s a good idea to know online “friends.” Get to know what social media websites your child is using. Review online contacts to be sure “friends” are people the youth knows offline. This strategy could prevent your children from being exposed to strangers or suspicious activities.

Make sure they have strong privacy settings 

Be sure to talk about the importance of online privacy. Use privacy settings to restrict who can access and post on your child’s social media profile. Remind your kids to protect personal information such as their Social Security number, home address, full name, birthday, phone number and account passwords.

Those kinds of personal details shouldn’t be shared with anyone, including close friends. Sometimes privacy settings get reset to default settings during program updates, so check profiles often. In addition, many apps, networks and devices have geotagging features which broadcast location. This information could lead a stranger to your child; check that these features are not enabled.

Jessica M., member since 2003Jessica M.
Member since 2003

LGFCU member raising online-savvy kids

When it comes to the online safety of her children, member Jessica M. said she tries to find a balance between giving her kids freedom to explore the digital world and setting parental boundaries.

“It’s all part of parenting. I don’t want to expose my children to anything inappropriate,” she said.

Jessica’s 11-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter each have an iPhone and an Android tablet. During the summer the kids are allowed to take one device to camp, which allows children an hour of screen time daily. Since the devices only connect to Wi-Fi — which is not available at camp — Jessica has allowed her children to download games on their devices to play later.

The lack of available Wi-Fi gives her peace of mind knowing her kids are only playing games she’s approved. In addition, she likes that the iPhone offers many security controls. As a parent she can restrict the downloading of inappropriate games and apps.

Are they asking for a friend?

Young people might not always come to you for online advice, so it’s important to be prepared to help them when they do. Work to create an environment of trust where your tween or teen can comfortably talk to you about his experiences and issues without fear of punishment or blame, even if he has broken an established rule. Additionally, consider asking your teen or tween to talk about the experiences and problems of online “friends.” He may be more comfortable disguising his issue as someone else’s experience.

Help teens help their friends

It’s not uncommon for youth to turn to their friends for help with problems online. Talk to your child about developing the tools and knowledge needed to protect herself, and when needed, her friends, with online safety concerns, including how to block users on sites, and how to report problems or abuse to sites and apps she uses. If a problem seems beyond her ability, such as if a friend tries to harm himself or others or the law has been broken, encourage her to seek help from a trusted adult.

Just as you take steps to protect yourself online, check out Chatting with Kids About Being Online to help you guide your child toward being a good digital citizen and stay safe online.

The advice provided is for informational purposes only. Content courtesy Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think. Connect.

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