Computers & Technology

By Darryl Budge

Make social media safer for your kids and teens

online safety

Consider Internet Safety Pledges for your children

Kids need boundaries to protect them from unforeseen risks, this fact in well known, so parents need to discuss with their children what appropriate information they can share online and what must not be shared; those things that present a risk to their or others' safety.

US child safety organization NetSmartz.org recommends children pledge to keep their parents' "internet safety rules" alongside "real-world safety rules", which helps the child understand the threats and risk of all environments.

NetSmartz.org suggests that both online and in the real world, a child under 13 (in your household it may apply to under 16s) should agree to tell a trusted adult if they feel sad, scared or confused and before sharing information like passwords, name, address, school or phone number. In the real world they should tell their parent or guardian before going anywhere, helping anyone, accepting anything or getting into a car.

Similarly, online, a child under 13 should agree to not have a face-to-face meeting with anyone they first met on the internet. In the real-world, a child should pledge to say 'no' to anyone who tries to touch or hurt them, and understand that it is okay for them to stand up for themselves.

A child of all ages should agree to always use good 'netiquette' and not be rude or mean online.

A parent is advised to invite open dialogue with their child about online activities. Just as a parent supervises which movies their child watches, a child under 13 should not be permitted to have unsupervised or unfiltered access to the internet and should agree to discuss all their online activities.

Help your child to put in place a strong password and privacy settings for blogs and social media and talk with them about their online friend lists. Identify who they know in the real world, who is a friend of a friend and who is a stranger, and discuss what they know about each person.

IN HIGH SCHOOL, a child or teen is recommended to pledge to:

1) Think before I post, by not posting information and images that will place me at risk, embarrass me or damage my future. This includes: phone numbers, home address, sexual messages and inappropriate photos and videos.

2) Respect others online, by not posting or forwarding what is rude, offensive, threatening, hurtful, embarrassing or harassing towards others.

3) Be careful when meeting online friends, by asking parent/guardian permission and not object if parent/guardian wants to accompany me.

4) Protect myself against rude or offensive behavior, by not responding, saving evidence, telling a trusted adult and report it to the website, phone company or the police.

With children under 16, parents may choose to be their children's 'friends' on social media. This enables you to both passively oversee your child's activities, in addition to active monitoring by discussing with them their online activities and what online friends are posting.

Finally, with older children, discuss and agree on reasonable definitions of unacceptable online behavior they should report to a trusted adult. This could include pranks, offensive language, threats of violence, underage drinking or drug use, hate speech, and sexual messages or pictures.

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