Did you know that June is National Internet Safety month? It’s the beginning of summer, and the perfect opportunity to reflect on the practices you’re using to keep your child safe, because for as long as children have spent summers away from school, parents have struggled to keep them occupied and out of trouble. With new technologies being developed seemingly at the speed of light, fewer parents have to worry about their kids getting bored over long, hot summers. And some can even take their kids to work with them, knowing that a smartphone or tablet is all it takes to occupy a child during a day at the office.
But new dangers may lurk in the same corner as your kid and her digital device, and a person doesn’t have to come into your house to be an intruder. Digital media provides an entirely new landscape, and one where dangerous people can easily tread. During the summer months, when kids have more time – and often less supervision, as parents struggle to find childcare or consider leaving younger children home alone for the first time – digital dangers loom especially large. But if you follow these internet safety tips and utilize good old-fashioned parenting skills, you can ensure your child makes it to the next school year unscathed.
1. Limit your child’s screen time. Your child faces the same digital dangers during the summer as he faces in the midst of the school year, but he has more time to get himself into trouble and, in many cases, less supervision. Any site – even the seemingly innocuous ones can be home to cyberbullying, online predators and sexting temptations – can be dangerous if enough time is devoted to it. Limiting screen time can cut the temptation to get into trouble on these sites. But be careful not to limit technology too much for your teen, especially when he uses it to connect with friends, stave off boredom and start new academic projects. Only you know the balance that is right for your child. Sometimes the best practice is to set a screen time limit and adjust as you see fit.
2. Stay up-to-date on the latest digital trends. Becoming technologically savvy is a vital key to keeping your child safe. Create social networking profiles that your children use and get used to how they work. This gives you better insight into how your child uses social networking and allows you to monitor popular sites other users are posting to the web. This will also give you some common ground with your child. Let them show you how to use their favorite sites and talk with them about the aspects they love the most. This opens the door for conversation in case they get into trouble on any of the sites they frequent.
3. Don’t forget the importance of old-fashioned parenting. The basic rules of parenting can very easily be applied to your child’s digital well-being. Communicating with your child, establishing clear limits, conveying consequences, and giving children developmentally-appropriate autonomy all play key roles in keeping your child safe. The single most important tip I can express is to establish a set of rules and consequences that are determined and agreed upon by both parent and child before any tech device is handed over. If rules are broken, the consequences need to be up held.
4. Utilize Parental Intelligence Systems. We’ve all heard the expression, “Fight fire with fire!” and parents can fight the dangers of technology using technology itself. Technological monitoring systems can watch your kids even when you can’t, and don’t necessarily require that you list every website or app you want your child to avoid. uKnowKids allows for social, mobile, and location monitoring and incorporates an alert system so you will be notified if your child is talking about dangerous, illegal, or inappropriate behavior.
Tim Woda is an Internet safety expert and an advocate for empowering families and protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers. Woda started working on child safety issues after his son was targeted by an online predator. While his son was unharmed, the incident led Woda to kick-start uKnow.com, a company dedicated to creating smart tools that connect and protect digital families.
Additional Online Safety Tips.
NetSmartz Workshop, an Interactive Kids Program For Online Safety.