Online Safety

As a parent, would you give your teen the keys to the family car and assume that they could figure out how to drive on their own? Of course not! Instead, you would sign them up for classes, allow them to practice under your supervision and allow them more responsibility behind the wheel as they are able to prove that they are making good choices when they are behind the wheel.

Just like a family car, a family computer is a tool that requires limits, supervision and knowledge in order for all of the users to make good decisions while online. When used correctly, the Internet can be a wonderful tool to learn about the world that surrounds us.

Take time to read the Internet safety information we have provided as a way to begin conversations about Internet safety in your own home

Online Safety Tips

For Children
  • Talk to your parents about the internet. Learn together! Sites like netsmartz.org are wonderful places to start.
  • Be kind. Don't post things online that are mean or will hurt other people. Don't respond to people using the internet to be mean or rude, but do talk to a parent or trusted adult.
  • If you see messages or pictures that give you an "uh-oh" feeling, tell a trusted adult right away.
For Teens
  • Talk to your parents about the internet. Learn together! Sites like netsmartz.org are wonderful places to start.
  • Be kind. Don't post things online that are mean or will hurt other people. Don't respond to people using the internet to be mean or rude, but do talk to a parent or trusted adult.
  • If you see messages or pictures that give you an "uh-oh" feeling, tell a trusted adult right away.
For Parents and Adults
  • The Internet isn't all bad. Even though online threats can feel overwhelming, remember that being an involved parent can be a huge protective factor in helping to keep your children safe online. Keep the computer in a public room with well understood expectations and guidelines for your family. Consider using filtering or blocking software to help reduce inappropriate online messages or pictures. But filters can never be trusted to catch all inappropriate material. Parental involvement is essential to keeping kids safe online.
  • Sit down with your child or teen and learn together. Seeing your youth's online experience from their perspective helps you to understand how they interact with others online. You should have the email addresses, screen names and passwords for your children's online accounts. If you have given permission for your teen to use a social networking site, sit down with them for periodic checks of their page and friend lists.
  • Good communication is key – at any age. Younger children may stumble upon unwanted pictures while teens are at higher risk and are more likely to get involved in chat room discussions, receive solicitations and/or have issues with cyberbullying. If you find out your child or teen has encountered something inappropriate while on the Web, discuss it with them and establish boundaries. Show them the best way to react to an unwanted situation, which may include closing out of a site and informing a parent of what they saw or found.
  • Report illegal online behavior. Let your child know that their safety is important to you both online and in the real world. Just as you would report a real world danger to the police, use the Cybertipline at (800) 843-5678 to report online threats to your children.

Social Media Tips for Parents

The internet isn’t all bad

Even though online threats can feel overwhelming, remember that being an involved parent can be protective factor in helping to keep children safe online.

Set expectations

Have an open discussion with your children about social media safety. Work with your child to make a list of expectations for phones and online use. If they are invested and involved in putting the list together, they will feel more ownership in following the rules.

Make telling easier

Most children do not tell an adult if someone is breaking their boundaries or rules online. One of the big reasons we hear from young people is that if they tell, their devices will be taken away. Go through “what if” scenarios before there is a problem. Let them know that you want to know if they were feeling unsafe online and what steps you would take.

Do your homework

In addition to filtering software available to parents, internet and cell phone companies have different resources for parents to help manage accounts. These services can be helpful, but should never be the stand alone plan for safety. Frequent conversations about your expectations using “what if” scenarios can help make online safety a partnership between you and your child.

Public vs Private

Help your child make the distinction between public and private information. Go through the apps your child is using with them and talk about privacy settings. Go through “what if” scenarios around private information. Remember, privacy isn’t just about the school your child attends or their age, it is also being wary when someone starts asking personal or intimate questions. </p

Digital Footprint

Talk to your teen about how their character in the real world should match their character online. The language used and pictures they choose to share should help in building a positive digital footprint that opens doors to future positive opportunities. If your child does make a mistake online that harms their digital footprint, remind them that they don’t have to face the situation alone and that they can come to you for help. All online problems have real world solutions.

Where do they hang out?

Know where your child spends their time online and why. Let them know that you will periodically check their accounts, ask questions about people on friend lists, and check in as to how they are navigating technology. Be aware of hidden apps and multiple accounts that might slide under your radar. Caregivers should be able to approve and remove any of the apps that your children are using. This isn’t about spying or creating an adversarial relationship. The more you see that they are using their technology responsibly, the more trust they will receive.

Don’t walk away

It can be tempting for parents to feel in over their heads as apps change, online language changes, and technology feels one step ahead. Don’t give up! Talking with your young person about your expectations and checking in as to how they are spending their time and why are very important. Know that there are resources to help parents, from classes like ours to online resources like CommonSenseMedia, Netsmartz, and JWRC.

Answer body questions in person

Most people who use the internet do not want to harm your child. The people who do use the internet to cause harm tell us the number one thing they are looking for is young people who want to talk about sex or have questions about sex. Identify with your child healthy ways to get information about their body and people they can go to if they have questions that they are uncomfortable asking you in person.

Be a good example

They are listening to you AND watching your example when it comes to online behavior; from taking time away from screens to not texting while driving. If we tell children to step away from their devices when they are upset or angry, we should do the same.