Do you know what your kids are doing online? Coinciding with Internet Safety Month, this June Intel Security (an NCSA Board member company) released findings from its new study, “The Realities of Cyber Parenting: What Pre-teens and Teens Are Up To Online,” which examined both parents’ concerns and the behaviors of American pre-teens and teenagers online and on social media. Topics discussed include parents’ knowledge of their kids’ online behavior, protection of personal information, cyberbullying, kids’ use of their friends’ passwords and personal information, the importance placed on selfies, “likes” and “favorites” on social media, time spent online and kids’ online friendships with adults.
The study, which surveyed more than 1,000 American parents and 1,000 kids ages 8 to 16, revealed some areas of concern. The parents surveyed said their top online safety fear was their kids unknowingly connecting with predators online, and with 27 percent of child respondents saying they would meet or have met people they first contacted online in person, this top concern is a valid one. Additionally, the study revealed a somewhat misguided “not my child” mentality in parents; while 94 percent of parents surveyed said they knew what their children are doing online, 35 percent of kids admitted to bullying others on social media
The Internet is a great place for kids to learn and connect to the world around them, but it can also pose threats to their privacy, reputations and safety. Parents can play critical roles in keeping their children safe online by holding regular, open conversations with them about their digital habits and the risks they may encounter online. Internet Safety Month is a perfect time to start or continue the online safety conversation with your children and any other young loved ones. Here are some strategies from the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign for talking with kids about online safety:
- Remain positively engaged: Pay attention to and know the environments your kids use. Surf the Internet with them, appreciate their participation in their online communities, show interest in their friends and try to react constructively when they encounter inappropriate material.
- Support their good choices: Expand your children’s online experience and their autonomy when developmentally appropriate, as they demonstrate competence in safe and secure online behavior and good decision making.
- Teach critical thinking: Help your children identify safe, credible websites and other digital content and be cautious about clicking on, downloading, posting and uploading content.
- Explain the implications: Help your kids understand the public nature of the Internet and its risks and benefits. Be sure they know that any digital info they share can easily be copied and pasted elsewhere and is almost impossible to take back. Things that could damage their reputations, friendships or future prospects should not be shared electronically.
- Help them be good digital citizens: Remind your children to respect personal information of friends and family and not share anything about others that is potentially embarrassing or hurtful.
- Just saying “no” rarely works: Teach your children how to interact safely with people they “meet” online. Though it’s preferable not to make in-person contact with online-only acquaintances, young people might not always follow this rule, so talk about maximizing safe conditions: meeting only in well-lit public places, always taking at least one friend and telling a trusted adult about any plans they make, including the time, place and acquaintance’s contact information. Remind them to limit sharing personal information with new friends.
- Empower your children to handle issues: Your children may deal with situations such as bullying, unwanted contact or hurtful comments online. Work with them on strategies for when problems arise, such as talking to a trusted adult, not retaliating, calmly talking with people, blocking and/or filing complaints. Agree on steps to take if a strategy fails.
- Encourage your children to be “digital leaders”: Help ensure they master the safety and security techniques of all technology they use. Support their positive and safe engagement in online communities. Encourage them to help others accomplish their goals. Urge them to help if friends are making poor choices or being harmed.
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