10 Online Safety Tips for Kids and Families.

10 Online Safety Tips for Kids and Families.

You don’t need us to tell you how important online safety for your family is, especially if you have kids still living at home. Local and national news sources help illustrate this point almost every day with stories about online scams, Internet perverts, and worse. But today we’re going to help you prevent any more of those stories by giving out some basic online safety tips for you and your family.

With the proper guidance, you can help make sure that you’ve done everything you can to help your kids surf safely on the Internet. Take a look at the list we’ve compiled below and see if there’s anything here you haven’t tried yet.

  1. Always sit with younger children when they’re online. Keep a few bookmarks that they can easily access to get to kid-friendly web sites.

  2. Help your kids create fun online nicknames that don’t give away personal information.

  3. Keep any computers that are connected to the Internet in an open area where your children can be easily supervised.

  4. Ensure that your kids aren’t sharing personally-identifiable and/or sensitive information with people they meet online. Examples of info to keep private include:

    • his/her real name,

    • the physical address of their home,

    • whether or not their parents, guardians, or other responsible adult are home,

    • any phone number (home or cell), or

    • passwords.

  5. Let them know that it’s not OK to use the Internet to gossip, cyberbully, or threaten anyone online, even if they mean it as a joke.

  6. Let your children know that it’s OK to tell you if something (or someone) on the Internet makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened.

  7. Make sure they know it’s never OK to meet an online friend without parental permission.

  8. Set clear rules for appropriate Internet use. Things you should consider are the types of web sites that are off limits, specific Internet hours, and what (if any) information can be shared online.

  9. Talk to your children about what web sites they visit and who they’re chatting with.

  10. Talk with your kids about computers and be open to their questions.

The online safety tips we’ve listed above are a good starting point for any family with children who are old enough to use computers, but they are by no means an exhaustive list. Monitor how much your kids use the Internet, see what’s working and what isn’t, and stay involved.

If you think we’ve missed anything, or if you have a story about how your family talks about online safety, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you.

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How to Identify and Prevent Cyberbullying.

How to Identify and Prevent Cyberbullying.

Today’s kids are spending more and more time online in chat rooms, texting via cell phone, and using every digital gadget available to them to communicate with their friends. Not only are they chatting with friends from their schools and neighborhoods, but they’re also meeting new people online and talking with them, too. In most cases the chats are fun and friendly, but there is a growing concern over a dark side of these digital discussions: cyberbullies.

What is cyberbullying?

The National Crime Prevention Council defines cyberbullying as: “Online bullying, called cyberbullying, happens when teens use the Internet, cell phones, or other devices to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.”. Emails, IM‘s, Twitter posts, text messages, MySpace pages… any digital resource can, and likely has been, used for the purposes of cyberbullying.

Warning signs of cyberbullying and harassment.

There’s a large variety of ways that a bully can harass a victim online. A few examples are creating or altering photos in a suggestive manner, continually sending the victim hateful messages, rallying a larger group of people to humiliate someone, and spreading false rumors in order to hurt or embarass the target.

Everyone reacts differently to harassment, but there are some classic warning signs that somehing is wrong. The victims of cyberbullying may:

  • Become uncharacteristically withdrawn or antisocial
  • Have trouble sleeping, or possibly have nightmares
  • Avoid going online or using their cell phone
  • Unexpectedly shut down a computer when others come near
  • Ask questions about revenge, death, or suicide

At the first sign of any of these, or other unusual behavior, parents, teachers, and other responsible adults should take note and talk to the child. Catching these things early is a key to prevention. And if you come across any bullying, make sure to save any evidence (save emails, print the screen with chats, etc.).

Cyberbullying in the news.

In recent years there have been several high-profile stories in the press regarding cyberbullying. Not only do these stories bring to light the wide-ranging impact of cyberbullying and other forms of digital harassment, but they also illustrate that it’s not just teens bullying other teens. Here are a few examples:

How do we stop cyberbullies?

Early detection of harassment is key, though it’s not always easy to find. Staying on top of your child’s internet and cell phone usage is one way to be in the loop. And don’t worry about keeping tabs: it’s not snooping or invading their privacy, it’s looking out for their well being!

We’ve come up with a short list of 5 cyberbullying prevention tips to help parents and their children stop cyberbullying in it’s tracks:

  1. Report cyberbullies:

    As with any bully, make sure that your kids know that it’s not OK for this to happen to them. They should also tell a responsible adult: parents, teachers, etc. Parents and other adults should take the information seriously and should report any instance of harassment to the authorities (police, school administrators, etc.)

  2. Education = prevention:

    Talk with your kids and let them know the ramifications of cyberbullying: fear, embarassment, and other negative reactions.

  3. Consider a contract:

    There are plenty of examples of fair use contracts between parents and children online that have clear, concise rules of internet and cell phone usage. Find a few examples and discuss them with your kids so that they know what is expected of them and get a written promise of compliance.

  4. Look for warning signs:

    Red flags that show up when a child is the victim of a cyberbully include (but aren’t limited to): being nervous when downloading emails or IM’s, becoming angry when online (or just after going offline), being uncharacteristically withdrawn from friends and family, the unexpected absence of any cell phone usage, and avoiding any time online.

  5. Get informed, stay informed:

    Keep an open door policy with your kids so that they know they can come to you at any time to discuss problems that may arise both online and offline.

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