What You Should Know About Internet Safety

Internet safety and security is an important topic for parents raising children in today’s digital world.  Children today are what are sometimes referred to as Digital Natives.  Digital Natives are people that are born into the world of technology, as opposed to acquiring technology familiarity as an adult.  Children today are connecting to services and people online through their computers, phones, tablets, and video game consoles.  While the Internet is a super powerful and helpful tool, it also presents a myriad of safety and security issues for parents to manage. 

What should you talk to your kids about?

Technology Hygiene ::

So technology hygiene is essentially ensuring that your family’s devices are always kept up to date with security patches and product updates.  For devices that support automatic updates, parents need to ensure that those are enabled. For those who don’t have that feature, either update when your device alerts you or set a day of each month that you look for updates on all the smart devices in your home.  What should you check? Bottom line, anything connected to the internet :: phones, tablets, computers, gaming consoles, televisions, and routers.

Online Privacy :: 

Parents,  it is never too early to begin discussing online safety with your children! The trick is finding a balance between informing your kids of the very real dangers that exist, while not scaring them away from the wonderful things that they can learn online – including interacting with other people. {Can you say “Fortnite?”}  I also HIGHLY encourage you to get to know the specific apps and services that your kids are using, who your children are communicating with online, and the types of things that your children are posting. 

Despite what the news may tell us, most of the people that your children will encounter online do not mean any harm, BUT as with anything we must prepare our children to handle the best and the worst that they may encounter in life.  From a very early age you can instill some digital best practices into your children that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.  These can be simple things such as basic netiquette, how to handle their passwords, the importance of telling a trusted adult if they encounter anything or anyone inappropriate online, and how they should never disclose personal information when talking to people online that they do not personally know. 

Sexting/Sexual Solicitation :: 

As your children mature, your conversations around digital safety should shift to focus on things such as sexting and sexual solicitation  These are very serious topics, that can potentially have life saving or life altering effects depending upon how your child handles them.  When it comes to the types of pictures and stories that your child can share, it is important to set some ground rules :: 

  1. Help them understand the things that they can and cannot share online.
  2. You must set privacy settings in their social media apps.
  3. Parents need to have ALL of their account usernames and passwords. 
  4. Talk to your child about the signs and signals of being “groomed” by an online predator. {Receiving random gifts, being told to hide things from their parents.}

Cyberbullying :: 

When it comes to cyberbullying, we all have a responsibility to ensure that our children do not get bullied, nor that they end up bullying someone else.  Make sure that your child knows that sending mean or harassing messages, posting rumors or gossip of other people, and creating fake pictures of people are some of the many examples of cyberbullying.  Help them understand how vital it is that they report any cyberbullying that they see directed towards themselves or anyone else that they may know.

Additional Resource

Check out www.netsmartz.org,  an educational program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.  This website has a myriad of resources, including presentations and workshops that you and your children can explore together to make sure they are developing good habits to keep themselves safe online.  The Internet is a tool that allows us to learn more than we have ever been able to learn, and when following some basic guidelines around safety is a great place to learn from a diverse set of people all over the world. 

 


Sean Fitzsimmons is a lifelong technologist, who works for Microsoft as a Cloud Solution Architect. Sean has 20+ years of experience working in IT and has been communicating with people in various online forums since he was 10 years old. He has been able to see the digital world both from the standpoint of an early childhood adopter, and as a parent.

He is passionate about internet safety and educating others on staying safe, while also realizing the full benefits of technology at our fingertips. Sean lives in Katy, TX with his wife and teenage son.

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