As a new mom who works in the cybersecurity field, it is literally my job to keep up with the latest security updates and potential harm that can happen when information falls into the wrong hands. While I do not expect my child to understand the ins and outs of the cyber world, I do plan to instill in him enough knowledge to be able to spot risks and defend himself against these risks as much as possible.
The internet is as miraculous as it is terrifying, and such as with teaching your child not to get into a car with a stranger, it is our job as parents to try and teach our children internet safety.
Growing up, my parents were very careful of reminding me not to talk to strangers, to hold their hand when I crossed the street, and to say no to drugs and not give into peer pressure. All of these lessons still apply today, but thanks to technology, parents also must face the challenge of teaching internet smarts and sensibility. In my opinion, the sooner this is taught, the better.
Today, it is normal to see toddlers playing on tablets while their parents eat at restaurants. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops provide the opportunity for children at a very early age to stay connected to their family and friends but also makes children all the more vulnerable. Teaching our children to be responsible, safe, and kind when online is a daunting feat for any parent, so I thought I would share just a few tips. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it begins the discussion of cyber safety in your home.
1. It is never too early! Children are basically tiny sponge who soak in knowledge quickly. If you allow your child access to your smartphone or computer, monitor their use.
2. There is no laser tattoo removal here. Explain to your children that what they put online is permanent. If you would not say it to someone in person, or would not want it tattooed on your forehead for all of eternity, do not put it online. Teach them that what they post will have lasting consequences.
3. Stranger danger is real online. Sitting behind a computer or smartphone screen often provides a false sense of security. Remind children that not everyone online is their friend.
4. Do not accept candy from strangers. Would you open a package that had no return address? If a stranger in the park gave you candy, would you eat it? Most of us would not and can recognize the dangers of being too trusting right away in a real-world situation. It is the same online. Teach your child if they do not know where an email or video is coming from, do not open it and it is OK to tell mom, dad, a teacher, or any trusted adult if something or someone makes them uncomfortable online, just like they would in real life.
5. Act like mom is watching. Teach them that if it is not appropriate for mom, dad, grandma, or church, they should not put it on the internet.
6. Do as I say not as I do, no longer applies. If we want our children to be safe online, we as parents need to be safe as well. Learn how to create a strong password, basics of virus protection, and how to verify safe applications and news sources. The more you know, the more you can show and communicate to your child. Do not give your child access to a device you do not know how to use or properly protect.
7. You will never reach higher ground if you are always pushing others down. Facebook depression, peer pressure, scamming, and cyber-bullying are ever present in today’s society. Bullies are nothing new, but the use of social media means there is no real escape. Essentially, bullies now have access to their victims 24/7. Do your best to remind your child that there is no excuse for bullying, and should they fall victim to a bully, they can and should confide in you.
8. I’m not a regular mom I’m a cool mom. Make sure your child knows it is cool to come to you with any questions or concerns. Even when you monitor a child’s internet usage, things can happen. It is best to have the child know they can come to you when they have a question.
Lastly, communication is key. We all want what is best for our kids, and their safety, both in the real and cyber world, is worth some preparation!
Do you have any internet safety tips that have worked for your family? Feel free to share!