Today’s kids are more tech-savvy than ever before. Even toddlers know how to use Mommy’s iPhone to access Calliou episodes, while older kids have computer skills that astound their parents. Some schools are now even providing iPads for their students, while others require students to prepare all their homework on a laptop or PC.
Karl Volkman, tech expert and CTO of SRV Network, Inc. says, “Classroom assignments today do not involve writing on the chalkboard. Instead, kids are actually blogging or submitting their homework via the web. But, that can be daunting for parents who worry about Internet safety.”
So what can you can do to help ensure that your kids are safe when they are using the Internet this school year?
1. Set up your child’s computer so that they are unable to download any software without a password. “Some kids are now downloading Tor in order to be able to access the ‘dark web’ and search the Internet without their parents being able to trace it,” says Volkman. “This is very dangerous as they could be exposed to some very frightening web sites and predators.”
2. Talk to your kid about common scams. “Kids are very gullible when an adult makes them promises,” says Volkman. “Scam artists might tell kids that they could be a model or a Disney star…if they only send their credit card information for headshots. Others could be predators who ask to meet your child. Constantly stress to your child that they should never, ever speak to anyone online without your permission and that they should not reveal personal information.”
3. Allow your kid to explore the web. “Refusing Internet access to your kids won’t do them any favors in today’s tech-driven world. They need to have these skill sets. Plus, as outlined above, teachers nowadays want kids to perform tasks on the web. So, allow them to explore and have fun. Reward them with an hour of Minecraft if they get an A plus on a test. Or have them send an email to Grandma or a pen pal online. Sending emails to a pen pal in another country could be an amazing way for them to learn about the world and improve their communication.”
4. Discuss cyberbullying. “Nearly 43 percent of kids say that they have been bullied online,” says Volkman. “Parents need to talk to their kids about this pressing issue. Tell them to come to you with any issues. It’s not tattling! It’s about ensuring that our children are safe from undue mental pressures which can sometimes have tragic consequences.”
5. Bookmark your kids’ favorite sites and become computer literate. “It’s not safe to be computer illiterate if your kids are on the web,” says Volkman. “You need to be aware of what they are up to. Take a basic computer course if necessary. And remember to bookmark all of your kids’ favorite sites so that they can easily access what they need on the web without having to use search engines.”