June is a great month, offering a sense of relief at being beyond the reach of any further cold weather. The last snowstorm is a distant memory, the last day of school has been celebrated. Everything is all smiles. Of course, all of that celebration is often followed by an unending chorus from kids, who, after five seconds of being out of school, are boooooored with far too much free time on their hands. While summer vacations are being planned and we can hopefully encourage our kids to spend more time in the fresh air, the reality is that kids end up having more time online. This isn’t always a bad thing – in our home, we have embraced the idea that technology is something our kids will live with, so the more comfortable they get with it now, the better.
Our daughter has her own blog, and she’s learning how to manage Twitter and a Facebook page. Our son has multiple YouTube channels that he runs, as well as associated social media pages for each. They’re also both on Facebook with personal accounts. We’d rather have the kids making mistakes now, when we can guide them, than have them experience the horrors of an improper post or tweet when there’s no one there to help them learn the etiquette and safety tools they need.
But because they’re online more, it’s even more crucial that you know what they are doing online, what sites they are visiting and who they are talking with online. Have regular conversations with your kids about the risks, reminding them not to share their personal information.
It’s so ingrained in our son, who is now 15, that even when we’ve given him permission to create an online profile for some project he is doing, he will still come and check with us before giving out his name, let alone more detailed information. And to this day, we know the passwords for all of our kids’ online accounts.
Online Safety with Your Kids from Toddlers to Teens
Since there is no way to avoid exposure to the internet for your kids, the best thing you can do as a parent is be proactive. Schools introduce kids to computers in kindergarten, and most kids older than age 5 are more tech savvy than their parents! It’s better, we think, to expose your kids to technology and teach them how to safely use the internet than to simply hope they won’t go there. They will.
To keep your kids safe, remind them:
- Never to give out personal information
- Never to open emails or files from people they don’t know
- Never to agree to meet with someone in person that they’ve met online
- To always tell you if there is anything that happens online that makes them uncomfortable, nervous, or upset
The FBI offers great tips to help you keep your kids safe online. For more information, visit their website.
As a reminder for all of us who spend time online, keep these tips in mind:
- Be wary of pop-up ads, as clicking on them may make you vulnerable to malware.
- Never click on links from emails that come from unrecognized sources (and definitely do NOT open attachments, especially .exe attachments, that are sent to you by email).
- Always update your virus definitions regularly.
If the worst happens and you believe your system has been compromised, turn it off and disconnect it until you can obtain help removing the virus or malware.