With more tablets and smartphones in the hands of young people than ever before, cybersecurity for minors has never been more important! Children and teens are also participating in social media in record numbers, sharing personal information every day, and while they may be connecting with people they know in real life most of the time, they’re also exposed to a host of potential wrongdoers.
Have a Conversation
The best course of action is to always encourage open communication about technology use and the risks that come along with it. Instead of using scare tactics, share resources with them that will help educate them about some of the common pitfalls of sharing information on the web. Empower them to seek out more information about staying safe online and let them know that they are being trusted with a big responsibility every time they log on. The New York Public Library has some great resources to get you started.
Create a Contract
Negotiating terms around how the young people in your house use technology is also a great idea. Commit it to paper to make it that much more official. Include stipulations about the kind of information that’s okay to share, and what should always remain private. Since you’re providing the means by which they can access the web, you set the rules. Here’s one model you can use, which a mother used to outline the terms for her son’s iPhone usage. Remember to outline consequences in your contract. If problems arise, you can always refer back to your original agreement.
Limit the Time and Place for Mobile Usage
You might consider creating a limited amount of time for the kids and teens in your household to use mobile devices and social media. Set a time where you can be around to periodically check in. Creating a space where teens feel like they have privacy is important, but it’s also important to let them know that you’re present and aware of what they’re doing. Ask questions every once in a while and engage in what they’re doing to make sure it’s safe.
Keep Track of Passwords
For children and young teens, you might consider holding onto the ‘keyring’ that opens the locks to your kids’ online world. Insist that you always know the password to their devices and online profiles. You don’t always have to check in directly, but the fact that you can lets your kids know that what they do online is subject to your scrutiny.
Every family is different, so use your intuition when it comes to setting limits to technology. As kids grow older, they need more privacy, and that includes the way they should be allowed to use things like mobile devices and tablets. However, part of protecting them means helping them stay safe online, so stay engaged, aware and make sure your kids are empowered and educated about the risks of sharing information on the web.
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