Internet Safety Tips
All of the online safety experts have the same advice about how to keep our families safe online. There are a few variations, but the basics are always the same: Keep your personal information private, block people who aren't nice and don't open unknown files, and finally, report anything that upsets you.
It is not always easy for parents and teachers to clearly express these messages to kids and teens, especially when you either are upset. Click Clever Click Safe, from the UK Council for Child Internet Safety, has come up with a clear message we can all follow.
Zip It: Keep your personal stuff private and think about what you say and do online.
Block It: Block people who send you nasty messages and don't open unknown links and attachments.
Flag It: Report anything upsets you or if someone asks to meet you offline.
If you can remember to Zip It, Block It, Flag It, you can advise your teen to report the behavior to the provider, block the person who said the mean things. As a bonus, this takes only a matter of seconds and you have empowered your teen to stand up for herself without retaliating with more hurtful words.
Hopefully your teen will never encounter this type of harassment. But it is a good idea to talk to the kids and teens in your house. If they are old enough to go online, they should learn these simple things to help keep their time online enjoyable. What ways would you suggest to open the conversation with your kids and teens about online safety?
One of the disconnects between kids and adults is that kids are being raised with the technology, so it is simply part of their world. Many adults have begun to use technology regularly, but in many cases there is a definitive line between online and offline. The youth are flowing easily between on and offline and in many ways, there is no difference. They are just two sides of the same coin.
The Door That's Not Locked campaign addresses the incorrect perception of some adults that the door is closed to knowing how to protect their kids because they need to know more about the tool than their kids to keep them safe. This comprehensive site is designed to educate teachers and parents with age specific tips and information, regardless of where the starting point is.
Do you feel like you know how to protect your kids and teens online?
The issues of one country rarely match the issues of another as closely as they do regarding children's online safety. Regardless of where you live, the desire of parents to keep kids safe online are only matched by the desire of the kids and teens to be independent and free to use the Web without hassle.
In the U.K., Safer Internet Day is being marked with an awareness campaign, "Think B4 U Post". As a part of the campaign, they have several suggested activities that translate into any nation, any area, any neighborhood. Here are a few more.
- Tell the young people you know about why they should think before they post anything online. Then have them tell two friends. Repeat.
- Host a parent's get together about online safety. There are a lot of resources available on this blog and on saferinternet.org that can help get you started. Training someone else is a great way to learn yourself.
- Help your kids make a video about "Think B4 U Post" using their own examples.
- Encourage local stores that sell technology to highlight safety features on the things they sell, no matter who the customer is.
What are some other ways you can commemorate this day?
While the Walsh family has my highest respect, the worst part about his story is that the services are needed. I hope that you will never have a need for these services. If I am wishing for things, I would wish that there was not a need for their services. Since there is a need – I am proud that AOL has been partnering with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in many ways for more than 10 years.
Two services available on AOL that can help locate missing kids are:
Alerts: You can sign up to be alerted when an AMBER Alert is sent in the zip code of your choosing. These alerts notify you of a missing child in the area, so you can watch for them. As you know, the missing piece of information can come from anywhere. Alerts can come via e-mail, text message to your cell phone or via Instant Message.
Updated Notifications: You can include a widget for local missing children in your area by going to your local MapQuest page. If you can provide any information about any missing child, you can call the toll-free number 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
The National Center's web site is full of information about protecting kids. I encourage you to check it out.
I want to get them a great game for their gaming system, but have to make sure that I keep my sister in mind when picking out the coolest game ever... it has to be fun for the young teen and appropriate for the 8-year-old. I have looked at reviews, asked other parents, but when I finally made my choice, I checked two sites. The first was ESRB.org. This site has all the games listed, the ratings and why it was rated that way. The second site I check is www.CommonSenseMedia.org. This site gives parental reviews of each game (as well as movies and TV) . regardless of the rating given by ESRB. It shares what parents think it should be rated and also gives parental reviews.
I picked out my game for the kiddos. I have my fingers crossed that I wills till be "Cool Aunt Francis". At least I know I won't be "bad sister Francis".
This is no truer now than it was when I was a teen. Second, there is a fear of losing access to the Internet if you "catch" something online that you think is "bad" (whether they did the "bad" thing or not).
We know that kids pick on kids, this is not new. It is not acceptable, but it isn't new. The difference between now and when I was a teen, is that the harassment continues in your living room via the computer, instead of only in person. I think this makes it harder on the person being picked on because they can be attacked in their home – where they should feel safe. If teens think that you (the parent) will solve the problem by taking away access to the computer, they might be less likely to tell you.
If you think your child might be getting cyberbullied, here are some tips on helping:
- Tell them that you will not punish them for being bullied (including taking away access to the computer)
- Listen to what your child is telling you without judgment and with your full support.
- Give advice on how to handle it (everything from reporting the behavior to the online provider, to blocking further online communications from the bully, to reporting anything really serious to the police)
- Get additional support from a school councilor or law enforcement if needed.
What tips do you have for a parent of a teen being cyberbullied?
Here are a few good web sites to start for kids who are probably just asking about getting online. Your child may already know a few that he/she wants to see:
- KOL - Yep, this is the AOL site for kids. It has celeb news, games, sports and style information. You can also sign your child up for an email address that is designed for kids. Because it is an AOL site, I will let you be the judge on how good it is.
- Nick.com - This site is from Nickelodeon and, as you might expect, it is filled with Nickelodeon characters. Everyone from Sponge Bob and iCarly to Rugrats and the Naked Brothers are represented with their own games and videos. If you like Nickelodeon channel, chances are you will like the site.
- Disney.com - Disney cannot be outdone for creativity, in my opinion. The games and videos are represented, all with the Disney characters, but there are a lot more interactive things to do on this site. My personal favorite is under the "create" tab, you can create mash ups.
- National Geographic for Kids - The fun way to learn and the best place for animal pictures.
- NASA - If you have a space nut in your house, this is a great site NASA made for kids.
This is a very short list of the many offerings for kids online. A good place to start looking for content for your kids is from their favorite activities, characters and toys. Do a search for the their favorite things and see what's out there. I would recommend you doing this search for the younger kids.
It is always a good idea to use tools like parental controls in conjunction with your help, especially when they start surfing on their own, but there is no tool that will parent better than you.
What are some of your young child's favorite web sites?
For example, there were people from the Girl Scouts, Attorneys General, the Chief Technology Officer from the White House, a Member of U.K.'s Parliament, representatives from all the major Internet companies, the non profit groups working toward online safety in many ways, child psychologists and pediatricians, and so many more.
I will be posting a lot about what I learned there, but one thing struck me and I had to share it. During one of the presentations, we were introduced to YouTube's Safety Center, including this video. I love the simple message and how it was done using keyboard characters.
Which safety campaigns have you loved in the past?
When I read this article saying that 1/3 of students in the UK aged 12 – 15 years old have a web cam in their bedrooms – this made sense to me. Assuming the technology is basically the same in the US vs. the UK, parents are getting their school aged students a laptop to do their homework and it is very likely going to include a web cam.
I am a long time supporter of having the computer in a common area of the home, not in a bedroom where the door can be closed. Admittedly, most teens are not going to do anything too terrible or talk to people they shouldn't using a web cam, but even fewer will if they have to do it with parents or siblings around (even if the family is just in sight and not close to the computer).
Now that our family has this new web cam, we got one for Grandma and Grandpa too. Every couple of weeks they can see their grandchild as she is growing up. I guess this forced technology isn't all bad – just unplanned.
MySpace (263 Million users)
Facebook (250 Million users)
Friendster (90 Million users)
Tagged (70 Million users)
Bebo ( 40 Million users)
Do you know all of these sites? Do your teens? Do they have profiles on any or all of them?
In the spirit of National Cyber Security Month, take some time to learn about the top social networking sites you don't already know about. Then talk about what you find with the whole family.
I've posted before about where education about online safety comes from, saying that it comes from all sources including schools, online, friends and parents. Here are some tips about discussing the topic of online safety with your kids.
Having friends and family know where you are is one thing, but quite another if it is someone you don't know or don't want to know. Hopefully this is good information for you to know what is out there. Since teens aren't using Twitter as much as adults, so this may not be anything to worry about for your family. But as the Internet evolves, new functionality like this gets shared over many sites.
What do you think about this feature? Could it help your family keep track of where everyone is?
I am excited by this, not because I am a customer (Verizon is not available to me), but I feel like it is a move in the right direction. A complaint that some parents have about parental controls is that they are cumbersome to use. Companies like AOL and Verizon are working to make parental control products easier. If products are easier to use, more parents will use them. If more parents use them, kids will be safer online. You see where this is going...
Do you have any reviews of great parental controls on the market?
From the article: "The way my friends and I see it, Facebook is a closed network. It's a network of people and friends that you trust to be connected to, and to share information like your email address, AIM screen name, and phone number. You know who's getting your status messages, because you either approved or added each person to your network."I knew that Twitter didn't appeal to teens. The statistics noted in the article say that only 4.4% of Twitter's visitors are under 18. I just didn't know why. Reading this both confuses me and gives me hope.
All the messages that parents, teachers and industry folks such as myself, are excited to see evidence that teens do know about online safety and are taking a proactive role to be safe. On the other hand, there still seems to be a misconception about online safety, what is and isn't private, and what information is available to those who know the tricks.
For example, I am a pretty active user on Facebook. Just this week I learned that Facebook is letting advertisers use your picture in their advertising. This is something that you can opt out of, but finding out that it is happening so you can choose to opt out of it is another issue. This is just one more example showing that information online is not always as private as you thought it was.
There is hope. Teens have the desire to be safe while online. And generally they are doing their due diligence and practicing safe behaviors. We still have work to do, but I see this as good news.
By the way, there are instructions linked in the article telling you how to opt out of the Facebook practice of using pictures in ads, in case you are interested.
-- Concerned about their kids' online safety
-- Don't use parental controls
-- Installed parental controls, but never adjusted the settings
-- Have a computer hooked up to the Internet in a child or teen's bedroom
-- Not sure what the kids do online because you don't monitor their online activities
If so, you are not alone. This PC World article says that most parents ignore parental controls.
There are a few that are not surprising at all; taking nude pictures with the cell phone, for example. Talking on the phone or texting while driving, even though it was never a good idea, is illegal in many states and cities.
Other ways to break the law with technology made me stop and think.