Internet Survival Tips for Parents and Teachers
- Be aware and involved. It's up to us to teach kids how to use the Internet — and all media — safely and responsibly. Just as we teach them how to eat properly and drive safely, we must teach them how to be safe, responsible, and respectful on the Internet.
- Do your homework. Check out sites, investigate ratings, explore safety and privacy tools and parental control features. Don't be intimidated by the Internet.
- Talk to your kids. Ask them questions about where they're going online and who their buddies are
- Teach safety. Make sure your kids know how to avoid dangers. No party postings, no personal information, no meeting strangers — ever.
- Set rules. Time limits, place limits, codes of conduct. Try to keep computers with Internet access in a central room in your house if younger kids are online.
- Report suspicious activity to your Internet service provider or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
- Help kids view online information with a critical eye. Not everything that appears on the Web is true. Teach them to be savvy consumers of Internet information.
- View your own online habits with a critical eye. Our kids watch everything we do. If you don't want your kid doing what you're doing online you might want to think twice about your own habits.
- Embrace their world. Download music, IM your kids, play an online game, visit MySpace. Not only will your kids appreciate it, you'll know what you're dealing with!
Internet Survival Tips for Kids and Teens
- Never give any personal information to anyone you meet online. That means first or last names, phone numbers (they can be used to track down you home), passwords, birth dates or years, or credit card information.
- Never meet up with anyone you don't already know. Don't tell anyone your schedule; don't say where you'll be hanging out. No party announcements. People are often not who they say they are. It's true: 1 in 5 kids will be sexually solicited online.
- Don't fill out any "fun" questionnaires that are forwarded to you, even if they're from your friends. Remember, you're in a world where everything can get forwarded. All those personal things about you could land in the hands of someone who could use them to harm you.
- Make sure you know everyone on your buddy list. If you haven't met the people face-to-face, they may not be who they pretend to be. Also, Instant Messaging strangers is an invasion of their privacy.
- You do not have to answer emails or IMs from people you don't know. As a matter of fact, you shouldn't. Who knows who they are? Even if they say they're "David's friend," David could be a lucky guess. "Kids" you meet in chat rooms may actually be creepy adults.
- There's no such thing as "private" on the Internet. You may think so, but it's not true. People can find anything they want — and keep what you post — forever.
- Be careful about posting pictures of yourself (if you must, don't post sexy ones or ones showing behavior you wouldn't want your mom, teacher, boss, or potential college advisor to see). Just because an older sibling has posted snaps on a site doesn't make it a smart or a safe idea. Pictures with identifiers like where you go to school can be shopping lists for online predators and other creeps.
- Don't send pictures of other people. Forwarding an embarrassing picture of someone else is a form of bullying. How would you like it if someone did that to you?
- Don't download content without your parents' permission. Many sites have spyware that will damage your computer. Other sites have really inappropriate content. Your parents can check your computer's URL history, so you can't hide where you've been.
- Never share your password with anyone but your parents.
"Safety Tips." Common Sense Media. Retrieved on August 20, 2010: http://www.commonsense.com/internet-safety-tips
The risks of the Internet don't stop when the computer is turned off. With more and more devices available that connect to the Internet, there are ever increasing opportunities for kids and teens to be put at risk online. The challenge for parents is that the risk isn't always from a "stranger" on the other side.
A new word on the scene is "sexting", which is a combination of "texting" and "sex". It is similar to "cyber sex" through Instant Messages, where two parties are having a sexually charged conversation, but "sexting" is done via text messages through the cell phone. The conversations can even include sending sexually explicit images taken by the cell phone and sent to the other party.
This news stroy from Greenville, SC explains that sexting is happening around the country by teens. The story cites: "Half of all 12 year olds have cell phones, and 1 in 5 children admit they are doing things on the internet or on their phone that their parents would not approve of."
A recent news stroy out of Washington, D.C. warns that sexting is unknowingly leading teens to the illegal trade of child pornography. The bigger problem is that it isn't being produced by "the stranger", it is being produced with cell phones by the teens themselves.
So what can be done? Here are a couple of tips that can help, but please share your own ideas as well.
1) The first step is communicating with teens about the risks of sharing "embarrassing" pictures of themselves with anyone, especially via cell phone or online. Remind them that the only way to keep embarrassing pictures from getting into the wrong hands is to not have them in the first place. Ask them how they would feel if they got into a fight with a friend or boyfriend and those pictures ended up being sent around school, or how they feel if their own parents got them.
2) Do what you can to prevent the pictures from being taken or sent via the cell phone by:
-- Not giving your child a cell phone.
-- If they do have a cell phone, get one without a camera.
-- Use a service with parental controls built in. Some cell phone carriers have better controls than others, check into your own service to see what is offered.
3) Be aware of all the sites your child visits regularly and check profiles for anything that could get them in trouble.
Ducan, F. "Today's Vocabulary Word: Sexting." Safetyclicks.com. 2009. Retrieved on April 23, 2009: http://www.safetyclicks.com/2009/01/02/todays-vocabulary-word-sexting/