February 8th was Safer Internet Day, organised by Insafe each year in February to promote safer and more responsible use of online technology and mobile phones, especially amongst young people across the world.
We’ve been teaching our kids to be safe ever since they were old enough to crawl. How do we teach them to be safe online? Well, we don’t have to be an expert in technology, we simply need to understand how to apply what we already know about safety.
Here are a few Internet safety skills that I think are important. What have I overlooked? Do you have others to share?
- Supervise. The Province of BC cautions us to close the door on unsupervised internet use. Place your child’s computer in an open room with the monitor facing out. This allows you to see and control what is occurring on the Internet.
- Discuss boundaries for Internet use — how much time to spend online, the services kids can use, the buddies they can add, the information they can share.
- Take advantage of technology. Use the safety features within the products and services. Maintain up-to-date firewalls, antivirus, and anti-spyware software, and use filters and family safety tools that fit the age and maturity of your child.
- Discuss with whom information is shared and what is disclosed. Not every friend-of-a-friend or Internet company deserves your child’s trust.
- Chat messages can be saved and searched. Nothing is private on the Internet. Caution your child to say in chat, only what they would say in person.
- Don’t Overshare. Keep personal information private. Limit what is shared publicly — sensitive personal data, pictures, feelings, etc.
- Respect other’s privacy; don’t reveal their personal information or tag them in photos without their permission.
- Have your child limit buddies on IM or social networks to friends they know personally.
- Help your child choose online names and e-mail addresses that aren’t revealing or suggestive.
- Create passwords that are difficult to guess, though not difficult to remember, and remind your child that these are not to be shared and should be changed regularly.
- Teach children to trust their instincts. If something upsets them, don’t punish them for telling you by taking away computer privileges. Instead, solve the problem and make it a learning opportunity.
- Teach children to never open email from someone they don’t know.
- Real harm can come from meeting an online friend in person.
- Immediately report to local police any physical threats, ongoing cyber-bullying, financial fraud, or any form of sexual exploitation. Report inappropriate content or behavior to the service provider.
- Teach your children not to steal others’ work. Using music, pictures, games, and so on without permission is just like stealing from a store.
- Use caution before opening attachments, clicking links, or accepting photos or files.
- Avoid surveys and quizzes or entering contests. These usually are created to collect information for resale.
Add to the list and share your personal experiences with teaching your children how to be safe online.