The Internet is an enticing place for kids. But it can also pose dangers if precautions are not taken. Online access puts your child and your personal data at risk. Last week, I attended a very informative assembly with Katie LeClerc Greer, a consultant and specialist in digital safety. Here are some ideas I walked away with.
First, you need to figure out if your child is ready for a cell phone. If you do not have time to check it, they should not have any devices. Then old fashion rules should apply. Check, bug, annoy, check again and repeat. Ask questions and set limits. Here are important steps to follow from the beginning:
- Have a shared account.
- Make sure it is password protected so they have to come to you in order to download or buy anything. It shows you are paying attention and you can discuss it.
- Disable all geolocation tracking for individual apps and online games.
- Never let anyone use their phone because a child whose parent checks their phone is not checking a friends phone.
- Never have it in their room overnight, charge it only in a parents room.
- Check Common Sense Media on all the apps they use before downloading them and do not to rely solely on the age limits given - they can be misleading.
- Be sure to check all text messages and call logs frequently. If the messages do not match up with the logs - it's likely your kid is deleting messages they do not want you to see.
- Don’t communicate with people online that you don’t know personally.
- Instagram is in, Facebook is out for kids. Check their friends, buddies and followers.
- Keep the lines of communication open with other parents.
Use your parental control and don't worry if your child gets upset. It would be great to trust our kids will not peruse the internet but if it's a matter of privacy vs. safety - you pick.
Cyberbullying unfortunately happens and these devices make it much easier and quicker for kids to be cruel without understanding how it might effect someone else. On the plus side, there is a decrease in cyberbullying incidents but always be aware of it.
Top Seven Apps your child should absolutely NOT be on (and yes, kids do use these apps):
Snapchat is a very popular website is better known as "the sexting app" but also used for harassment and is particularly hurtful since it is typically used amongst friends. Because kids think photos and videos simply disappear on Snapchat they do not think what they send can get captured through a screenshot and distributed.
Swipe is a dating app similar to the Hot or Not app. You can choose to talk to someone or swipe to another anonymously. Connecting with strangers online without a lot of experience in mediating something negative is not something a kid typically has experience with.
Yik Yak is another social networking app that lets users stay anonymous but works via geolocation. Users post mature content not intended for kids. This app is so problematic even the developers have put in a geo-fence to prevent it from being used in schools.
kik is an alternative to texting and social networking anonymously to anyone in the kick network which is a problem with privacy and safety.
omegle is a live video chat with anyone anywhere in the world. As soon as you open the app your video comes on with another person potentially being inappropriate. The idea is you change video feeds if you don't want to have a conversation with the person on the other side.
Tinder is an online dating app. It is commonly used as a casual sex hook-up app and matches you with someone using geolocation.
These apps are the common ones kids admit to using. If you do not think your kids are looking at these apps - ask them directly. You might be surprised at the answer.
Kids spend a significant amount of time on the Internet. If your child has a smart phone or tablet you need to be aware that they have accessibility to the world in their pocket. These devices can be great and convenient but it's important to be aware of a kids experience online. These are the kids that will change lives in the future. Steer them in the direction of doing something good with technology that will contribute to this world for the better.
Thank you to Katie LeClerc Greer, CEO or KL Greer Consulting for the very informative presentation on digital safety.