Cathy Olsen, Securemama
In today's connected smartphone generation, we worry about our kids' exposure to dangers found on the Internet: pornography, sexting, cyber-bullying and identity theft, among others.
Here are five ways to keep your kids safe.
1. Talk to your kids about the Internet
Teach kids safe Internet browsing habits. Tell them to be careful where they click (ads, pop-ups, unknown emails, etc). Talk to them about inappropriate material. Talk to them about what they should do if they are exposed to inappropriate material. Set up an Internet drill. If anything happens, they should stop and get an adult.
While talking to your kids about the Internet, set up an online guideline for your house. Here is an example of an online guideline. Make a guideline of your own, print it out. Even sign it. This guideline is to instruct your kids what they can and cannot do on the Internet, no matter how, when or where they access the Internet.
2. Get filtered
We all hear about filters. You may have installed a filter on your home computer. However, does your school have a filter? Does your local library have a filter? Who installed the filter? Did they install it on all new computers this year? When did they install it? Does it need to be updated? Work with school administrators and local civic leaders to make sure libraries and schools have adequate Web filtering in place.
Do you have filters installed? If not, don't worry. There are plenty of free solutions to help you. Here are links to video tutorials that will show you how to install them: How to install OpenDNS, How to install K9 Web filter.
Your kids may have smartphones or other mobile devices. Get those devices locked down and filtered. Install a filtered Web browser on the device and disable all other browsers. The K9 application is free. Here is a link to a tutorial on how to lockdown an Apple mobile device.
Don't to forget to turn on Safe Search. Many school projects tend to lead to YouTube and Google image searches. Block possible inappropriate material from coming through the search by turning on the Safe Search: How to turn on Google Safe Search. YouTube for Kids.
3. Check their credit
Although this may seem strange, there has been an increased amount of child identity theft as reported in this recent KSL story. A child's Social Security number is used to open credit cards, purchase cars and perform other fraudulent activities. Check your child's credit once a year. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com. This website is secure and provides a free "soft" inquiry to the three main credit agencies. It does not give a credit score, but it will list all open lines of credit. A soft inquiry once a year will not affect their credit score. However, ignoring their credit score until they turn 18 may ruin their credit.
4. Charge phones and mobile devices in the kitchen
We all know that we need to keep our computer in a public location. Well, that iPod, smartphone and tablet are just as powerful as a computer. Do you want them to be brought into your kids' bedrooms? Even if the content is filtered, you wouldn't want them to be texting, skyping, using FaceTime or performing any other form of communication all night long. Charge all devices (even yours to set an example) in the kitchen. You can then unplug the chargers in the morning, which is helpful for the environment.
5. Be a little 'shy' on the Internet
Certain aspects of the Internet help to satisfy our need to connect with others. We want to share. We want to friend. We want to like everything. We want to post pictures and videos. However, as parents we need to be careful about our kids' privacy and interactions on the Internet. Once you post, share, text or tweet something on the Internet, it is impossible to completely retrieve it. Teach your kids to think before they post.
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