10 things parents can do right now to keep themselves safe online

Our children are growing up with the web as an integral part of their lives. However, with all the wonderful resources that the online world has to offer, there is a dark side that we parents need to educate our children to protect them as necessary.

What are the signs that a child may be safe online?

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Some warning signs that your child is using the Internet in unsafe ways are:

  • Your child is online to an excessive degree, especially when no one is home or even late at night
  • You find pornographic or other inappropriate photos of your child or his/her friends on your child’s computer or smartphone
  • By changing the screen, your child may make the mistake of walking across the room, changing the monitor, or quickly changing the view on his smartphone.
  • Internet history and cookies are regularly deleted when your child uses the computer/smartphone browser

What is the appropriate way to respond if children see something inappropriate online?

The most important thing to remember is that you want to open communication records. If you think your child is viewing or using questionable or dubious content and websites, don’t be alarmed.

Remember, these actions are not always harmful and your children will not understand the severity of their actions, calmly discuss with your child the dangers associated with inappropriate websites and be open to answering any questions they may have. It’s not possible for these conversations to happen very quickly. Don’t wait until middle school to talk about the consequences of inappropriate behavior online.

What can parents do to make sure their kids are safe online?

The days of keeping a computer in a central location are over for most families, as many children have laptops and smartphones. With smartphones, their children are in the hands of the Internet , literally, and parents don’t realize it. If your child has a laptop, they need to create a “doors open” rule when your child is on the laptop so you can see what they are doing.

Don’t forget to pay attention to what they are doing on their smartphone. If your child has a smartphone, you’ll be footing the bill. Set clear expectations when giving your child a smartphone, ultimately you, the parent, own the device, not them. You should have access to it whenever needed. Your job as a parent is to protect your children. Keep track of the hours they use the phone, and if there is excessive data usage, this could signal a dangerous activity.

What about sharing inappropriate content online?

Parents are concerned about the creation, sending, and receiving of sexually explicit or suggestive digital videos across the Internet. These videos can easily be produced with high-definition cameras such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

Are children aware of the potential danger of sharing content online?

Most children are unaware of the dangers of sharing explicit or communicative content online. A major risk associated with this trend is the use of sexually explicit content to seek out and intimidate the subject or to obtain sexual advances or additional material of the person(s) in the video.

The public is informed of the legal consequences of containing such content on your devices, whether or not they are involved. According to a study conducted by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), self-made sexual or suggestive images and videos are taken from their original online location and uploaded to pornographic websites.

It is illegal to receive, receive, or receive sexually revealing images and videos of someone under 17 (including images intended for high school boyfriends). Many states criminalize sexual assault and sexual discrimination. Child pornography laws are referenced and the person(s) who acquires the sexually explicit content may be required to register as a sex offender.

How can parents approach the topic of staying safe online?

Let’s face it, this isn’t an easy discussion to have with your kids, but the consequences of not talking about it can be significant and dangerous. Here are some tips on how to handle the discussion:

  • Keep an open line of communication. Ask questions, listen with an open mind, and don’t be a non-deliverer to build strong relationships.
  • Use current events in the media regarding your child’s same-aged teen as a result of bad decisions online . This will help your child recognize reality as “more real.” You can even find examples in your own community.
  • Make sure your children understand the legal implications. Those consequences need to be understood as life-long and harmful.
  • Let’s talk about the emotional price tags of sharing inappropriate content online. Future boyfriends and girlfriends, partners, employers, children and grandchildren are always available for those videos and scenes.
  • Know how your child uses technology. If your child has access to a video camera, smartphone, or other device that enables video production, make sure you have safety controls in place to monitor what is being recorded and restrict sharing.
  • It’s not enough to keep technology away from the bedroom and central areas of the home. Remember that a smartphone is a powerful tool that kids use to go online, and there’s no substitute for watchful eyes.

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