Keeping Kids’ Personal Info Safe

Posted on: September 20, 2015

Now that we’re all settled in to the new school year, it’s a perfect time to talk to your kids about information safety.

Even elementary school kids can have email addresses and mobile phones, which means they have ways to communicate with people and share information outside of your supervision. Internet safety education for kids is absolutely critical—and the “rules” change constantly as technology evolves. Teach your kids to keep their personal information offline. It may require a new understanding of the concept of privacy.

Social Media Privacy Settings for Kids

Be aware of these privacy settings for social media accounts.

  1. If you’ve decided to let your child have a Facebook or other social media account, make sure you use the highest privacy settings possible. You can adjust the settings on the account to make sure that your child’s profile won’t show up in a search and that no one except connected friends can see their posts.
  2. Encourage your child to limit the number of photos he or she posts of him or herself. Suggest taking photos of objects or scenes instead. Maybe you can present this as a good way for your preteen or teen to develop their creativity!
  3. Strictly enforce rules such as: never “friending” someone you don’t know and never sharing location, phone number, email address, etc via a social media account.
  4. Set your own “terms and conditions” that must be met in order for your child to maintain a social media account. For instance: they must share the password with you and not change it without your knowledge.

 

Make Rules About What Your Kids Can and Can’t Share Online

In addition to sharing as little personal info as possible via social media, your kids should know when it’s safe and unsafe to share personal information other places online, as well as via mobile devices.

  1. Tell your child he or she must have your permission and supervision when signing up for or registering for anything online. That way you can determine whether or not the site they are using is legitimate and secure.
  2. Enforce strict rules about texting—especially when it comes to photos.
  3. Make sure your kids know that they must never, for any reason, share their personal information via the internet with a stranger or anyone else who may not be trustworthy. Just as one would do offline.
For some ideas about tech rules for kids, check out this set of mobile phone rules a mom wrote for her son. This story went “viral” in 2013. It may a useful resource when you are developing rules and guidelines for your own family. 

Teaching Kids About the Online World vs the Real World

Cyberbullying is, sadly, a prevalent problem in our culture. Help your child deal with the fact that people often behave differently online than they do in “real life.”

  1. Have a heart-to-heart with your kids about the “anonymity” of the internet and how it can make some people feel emboldened to be cruel or thoughtless.
  2. Encourage your child to cease contact with anyone who exhibits poor behavior or bullying on the internet—and to not take part in any type of bullying or unkindness online.
  3. Make sure your kids know that they should let you know when something online or in a text, etc. makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Emphasize how important it is that they do not engage with any person or activity that seems wrong, and to come to you right away.

Data Protection and Internet Safety: It’s Our Responsibility

Remind your kids that there’s no one out there protecting their info—it’s an essential job that they must do themselves. This lesson is an important part of growing up.

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