Online safety tips for families


School re-entry has been markedly different this year than in years past. With distance learning an option this year, online safety is even more important than ever.

The following tips offer helpful information for students and families regarding cyber safety. This is the time for parents and guardians to have a meaningful conversation with students about their online presence. The most effective strategy to protect our youth is fostering an open conversation with them about their online activity. A trusted adult in a young person’s life, who can be available to monitor devices and help guide a young person, can make all the difference.

The following information is provided through Net Cetera, a publication from The Federal Trade Commission. Please consider these comments and for more information visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/kids-online and https://www.commonsensemedia.org/

Communicating online is a way of life, yet it comes with certain risks:

  • Inappropriate conduct: The online world can feel anonymous. Kids sometimes forget that they’re still accountable for their actions.
  • Inappropriate contact: Some people online have bad intentions. They might be bullies, predators, hackers or scammers.
  • Inappropriate content: You may be concerned that your kids could find pornography, violence or hate speech online. Technology is constantly evolving. So are the risks associated with it. You can reduce these risks by talking to your kids about how they communicate — online and off — and encouraging them to think critically and act in a way they can be proud of.

What Can You Do?

Talk about credibility. It’s important to emphasize the concept of credibility. Even the most tech-savvy kids need to understand that:

  • not everything they see on the internet is true
  • people online may not be who they appear to be or say they are
  • information or images they share can be seen far and wide
  • once something is posted online, it’s nearly impossible to “take it back”

Talk about manners. Because they don’t see facial expressions, body language, and other visual cues, teens and tweens may feel free to do or say things online that they wouldn’t offline. Remind them that real people with real feelings are behind profiles, screen names and avatars. Talk about expectations. When you talk to your kids, set reasonable expectations. Anticipate how you will react if you find out that they’ve done something online you don’t approve of. If your child confides in you about something scary or inappropriate they’ve encountered online, try to work together to prevent it from happening again.

Talk about expectations. When you talk to your kids, set reasonable expectations. Anticipate how you will react if you find out that they’ve done something online you don’t approve of. If your child confides in you about something scary or inappropriate they’ve encountered online, try to work together to prevent it from happening again.

Young Kids Supervision is important. When very young children start using mobile devices or a computer, they should be supervised closely by a parent or caregiver. If little kids aren’t supervised online, they may stumble onto content that could scare or confuse them.

Tweens need to feel “independent” but not alone as they start exploring on their own. Many 8- to 12-year-olds are adept at finding information online, but they still need guidance to help them understand which sources are trustworthy. Think about limits. Consider setting limits on how long and how often they can be online — whether on computers, phones, or other mobile devices. For younger tweens, parental controls can be effective. However, many middle school kids have the technical know-how to get around those controls.

Teens are forming their own values and beginning to take on the values of their peers. Many are eager to experience more independence from their parents. However, they need to learn how to exercise judgment about being safe online and act in accordance with their family ethic. Teens have more internet access through mobile devices — as well as more time to themselves — so it isn’t realistic for you to try to be in the same room when they’re online. They need to know that you and other family members can ask them about what they’re doing online.

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