Internet Safety Information for Parents
The Internet has opened up the world to all of us and we want to take advantage of all the information we can find online, but kids and parent both need to learn some online safety practices. Kids naturally want to play games and to communicate with their friends, but parents often don't understand the pros and cons of allowing their kids unlimited and unsupervised cell phone and online access - especially when the computer is isolated in the child's bedroom away from parental oversight or the child has the phone with them at all times. Some students even stay up late after their parents are asleep and are tired the next day at school. Tips like keeping the computers in the family areas of the house and/or enforcing a rule that cell phones will be charged overnight in a room that is not the child's bedroom can help limit unsupervised use of these devises.
Sites Your Kids May Use
Many middle school students have already created Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as Instagram and other sites where they can upload photos to share. The kids may have lied about their ages in their online profiles. Many of these sites (including Facebook) are blocked on all school computers, but frequently the things that are posted on these pages outside of school cause arguments and other problems at school between students. Now that parents and even grandparents are using Facebook in great numbers, teens have switched to other social media outlets. Look at these two article in order to be familiar with some of the other sites that kids use.
- 18 Sites and Apps that Kids are Headed to Beyond Facebook
- Moms, You Oughta Know: 11 Social Media Apps Teens Are Using Now
Also remember that you do not have the legal right to post pictures of someone else's child on the Internet such as on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube if they are under 18 without the parents' permission even if it is from a school event.
Find Your Child's Account
Parents can go to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites or use the corresponding mobile apps on their phone or tablet to search for their child's pages and accounts. This may require having an account for the site and signing in before searching. Remember that even if a page is marked "private", all of the people who have been added as "friends" can see the page AND perhaps all the "friends" of those "friends" can, too! Nothing posted on these pages is truly private. Sometimes the things students post on these sites is read by prospective college admissions officers and/or prospective employers. Even if the original photo or post has been removed, copies of it may exist indefinitely somewhere else on the web.
A word to the wise - don't trust the information given to you by someone you meet on the Internet in a "chat" or on a social media site if you do not already know them in person. Even the photos they share may be fake. In the past, several arrests have occurred in Hampshire County when people traveled here to meet "a 14-year-old girl" they met online for the purpose of having a sexual relationship. In reality it was a sting operation set up by a deputy sheriff to catch online predators. Monitor your child's online "friends" and let them know the dangers of trying to meet a stranger in person that they have connected with online. If you have any information about children being exploited on the Internet, report it to the Cyber Tip Line.
Helpful Sites for Parents
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has posted the following important consumer information for parents about Kids' Online Safety - http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/kids-online-safety. The links below will also help parents understand the advantages and also the dangers of kids surfing the net, chatting online, posting status updates to online social sites and sharing pictures via photo and video sharing sites. Many of these sites include online games, videos, and activities to teach children about online safety.
- 13 Tips for Monitoring Kids' Social Media
- Advice for Parents on the Use of Social Networking Websites
- Facebook for Parents
- Internet Safety for Parents of Twitter Teens
- Internet Slang Translator
- Lingo2Word - Has a translator to change between English and text lingo
- NetLingo - Chat and Text Message Shorthand
- A Parent's Guide to Facebook (PDF)
- A Parent's Guide to Social Networking Sites (PDF)
- Remove Embarrassing YouTube Videos, "Untag" Facebook Photos
- Surfing the Net with Kids
- Twitter Help Center for Families
- Your Children and the Internet: Social Networking Sites