Back-to-School Internet Safety Tips
This topic is a little left of center—the center being paper shredding, our bread and butter (pardon the mixed metaphor!)—but this is the kind of information that can never be in too many places. Unless you’re raising your kids off the grid or off the screen (and if that’s the case, hey, more power to ya!), they have grown up with the internet as a viable presence in their lives. And as they get older and schoolwork and interests become more integrated into their daily lives, they’ll start using the internet on their own more and more. Unfortunately, the price parents pay for allowing their kids this increased autonomy is eternal worry and vigilance.
The First Line of Defense: Your Browser
Check your privacy settings to see if you can limit the types of cookies that websites install. You may be able to block those that collect information about your or your child’s web activities.
Install a kids-only browser. These browsers block adult content from search results. Check out this list of kid-safe browsers.
Help Your Kids Make Smart Choices Online
If your teen or preteen has social media accounts of his or her own, be sure to stress the importance of personal security and online etiquette. Here are a few guidelines you might want to share:
- Stop and think before you post or send. A comment, text, or email cannot be taken back or deleted. Is what you want to say kind, helpful, mean, or hurtful? What might the consequences of others seeing this be?
- Never assume that an email or text is private or just between you and the sender/recipient.
- Never share personal information with a stranger—name, address, town, school, age, etc.
- Never, ever send photos of yourself to a stranger.
- Keep your passwords private—only you and your parents should have them.
Watch Your Own Online Activity
Many of us love sharing our kids’ accomplishments and adorable moments on social media. But keep in mind that when you share a photo of your child, it’s out there forever. And anyone can copy the photo, repost it, or use it in some other way without your permission or knowledge. Not to mention that someday that four-year-old in the hot dog costume is going to be a teenager who might not want that image coming back to haunt her! You can share photos of your kids privately online on sites like Flickr, where you can make your account private and give access only to family members and friends.
Kids Have Personally Identifiable Information Too
Last but not least, remember that any paperwork that has personal information about your kids should be carefully secured if you need to keep it and securely shredded if you don’t.
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