Start early — Kids steeped in technology from an early age, but, just because they can navigate their way around a smartphone or computer, doesn’t mean you should leave them to their own devices. You have rules in your home and the digital world is no different. Set boundaries early on and make age appropriate changes as they grow and mature.
Keep it to yourself — Teach your children about the potential dangers of sharing personal information with someone they meet online, including their real name, address, phone number, financial information, school name, passwords or other private information. Kids become complacent, so don’t be afraid to remind them from time to time.
Talk about it — Talk regularly with your student about the apps they use and their online activity. You don’t have to monitor every conversation they have, but don’t be afraid to ask direct questions and review their accounts from time to time.
Follow the rules — Set rules and stick to them including approved, or forbidden, programs and apps; time limits, including school night and weekend “cut-off” times for online activity; and parking all phones in a central location — not the bedroom — each evening. You might be surprised how much online activity continues throughout the night, especially with teens.
That online BFF — The internet and smart phones make it easy to connect with people from around the world, but students need to be reminded that not everyone is a “real friend” and they should refrain from getting too close to those they don’t actually know. Kids often think they are smarter than adults, particularly when it comes to technology and their choice of friends, but adults still need to help protect kids from their own bad judgment.
Everyone will know — If you don’t want everyone to know, don’t post it online. The internet makes it easy for prospective coaches, colleges and employers down the road to see those photos and comments that kids — or their friends — shouldn’t have posted. You can clean it up to some degree, but assume everything posted can be discovered.
Cyberbullying and abuse — While some bullies roam the school, many thrive in the digital world where they can easily taunt, ridicule and otherwise destroy lives while hiding behind a screen. Reinforce the idea that if someone or makes them uncomfortable in any way, it’s okay to ignore or delate the post — and always tell someone. Many schools have programs and apps for students to report these incidents, so encourage your kids to speak up if they know, or become, a victim.
Take control — Parental controls are just that — features found in digital television services, computer and video games, mobile devices and software allowing you to permit or restrict access. You can generally use them to restrict specific types of content, set time limits for access, monitor activity on a particular device, or funnel a child’s online activity through a particular software.
Empower your kids — We can’t monitor our kids 24/7 so they have to understand the responsibility they have for their online activity and learn how to manage it as they would with their face-to-face interactions. Do what you can to help them make good digital decisions.
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