Summer break is already here for some and fast approaching for others. With school being out and students spending more free time online and on their mobile devices, it’s important to be aware of ongoing risks in the cyber world. In addition to cyberbullying and exposure to inappropriate content, children need an awareness that threats exist – predators looking to make connections online and offline and, even more common, cyber criminals hoping to steal personal information.
As summer vacation kicks off, the Department of Homeland Security encourages you to share these online safety tips with your children:
- Don’t share too much information.
Create a list of things your kids should never post or share online – like their birthday and year, full name, address, and phone number – and make sure they understand why it is important to keep this information private.
- Be careful about what you post.
The internet isn’t private. Once your kids share a post, picture, or video, they can’t control how others will use it, and it can never be permanently deleted. Teach them be thoughtful and cautious in what they post and share online.
- Keep your location private.
Many apps, networks, and devices have geo-tagging features which broadcast your location. This information could lead a stalker directly to your kids, so check that these features are turned off.
- Protect your password.
Show your kids how to create strong passwords and make sure they know to never share them with anyone (except their parents or a trusted adult).
Speaking of vacation – below are a few more tips on being mindful of what you share when it comes to your trips and travels.
Vacation time should be for relaxing and spending time with friends and loved ones. Consider modeling some device free behavior. Do you really need to be checking your phone or tablet constantly? By implementing device free time, you are sending a message to your children that your time with them is more valuable than whatever text messages or status updates might be happening in the background.
Avoid posting details of your family vacation. Don’t post dates and locations for the entire world to see, and make sure your children don’t do so either.
Discourage “checking-in” and geo-tagging. Although “fun,” checking in at certain locations on Facebook or other social networks could expose your home and family to risk. Remind your children to turn off any geo-tracking tools, and avoid “checking in”.
Cyberbullying doesn’t end with the school year. Cyberbullies can troll your children at anytime. Changes in behavior may indicate that your child is a victim. Notice any behavior that seems unusual? Is your child no longer wanting to be online or is constantly online day and night? These could be potential warning signs that all is not well in your child’s cyber world. Talk to them.
Children are more likely to meet online friends in person during the summer.
This may not always be such a bad idea, if handled correctly. Together with your children, make sure the following rules are adhered to:
- Your permission and involvement are vital. Be present.
- Any initial meet-up should be held in a public place that you have selected together.
- If you have a chance to speak with parents, do so before the meeting.
- Trust your instincts. If anything doesn’t feel right – cancel the meet-up.
Open discussions about what your kids encounter in their real/online lives are very important to have. Let them know that if they have made mistakes – big or small – they can come to you no matter what. We can’t change the cyber world that our kids now live in, but we can help them navigate it. Social media is a gateway to their friends. Back in the day (pre-internet times), children spent hours playing outside, as well as chatting with friends on the house phone into the wee hours – times have changed. Children now connect with each other via popular apps – Instagram, Snapchat and Misical.ly. It’s a fun way for them to “hangout” within the comforts of home and also provides you with a break from shuttling them all over town.
Summer can also provide opportunities to learn more about the apps your children are using and to meet and connect with industry leaders on Internet Safety topics. We’ve already marked our calendars for the June 14 STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™ Twitter Chat;
STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™ is a global online safety awareness campaign that helps all digital citizens stay safer and more secure online by encouraging people to be more vigilant about practicing safe, online habits. In celebration of Internet Safety Month, STOP. THINK. CONNECT. ™ invites you to join their upcoming Twitter Chat to learn some tips for a fun, cyber safe summer.
#ChatSTC Twitter Chat: Top Tips for a Fun, Cyber Safe Summer
Thursday, June 14, Noon PDT
June doesn’t just mark the beginning of summer – it’s also Internet Safety Month! School’s out, connected devices are in! While the internet offers opportunities to learn, socialize and explore, it also comes with potential dangers. In this #ChatSTC we’ll share easy, actionable tips and advice you can use right now to keep yourself and the young people in your life safe online all summer long.
Enjoy your summer and please be sure to share with us any additional resources, as well as takeaways from the above information. We welcome your comments and recommendations. We would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the important role parents/guardians play in guiding their children (our students) in becoming positive, contributing and connected digital citizens.