Thursday, August 29, 2013

Parenting Cyber-Safety: Keeping Your Kids Safe Digitally Speaking

Are you a TIP (Technologically Inept Parent)?  Almost 60% of primary school kids know more about technology than their moms, according to new research by Vtech.

Although this may sound amusing, experts agree parents should make the effort to keep abreast of technology for their children’s safety.  Research by Ofcom and EU Kids Online shows around a fifth of parents do not talk to their children about staying safe online, are not confident they can protect their children, and don’t have any rules about safe internet use.

The internet is an amazing resource and has innumerable benefits for our children, but how can we make sure they stay safe online?

Parental Controls
Many parents worry about the content their kids may come across online.  Parental controls can provide some peace of mind.  They let you do things like block selected websites and email addresses by adding them to a filter list, set time limits for use, and prevent your child from searching certain words.  Your internet service provider (ISP) or mobile phone operator will be able to tell you more about any child safety measures they offer.  With younger children, encouraging them to use child-friendly search engines can be a good way to filter content.

Privacy settings
Around 20% of 8 to 15-year-olds with social networking profiles have them set to open, and 29% of UK children have had contact with people they had not met before online.   Banning Facebook is extreme, but there are things you can do to reduce the risks.  Ask your child to select the strongest privacy setting available to ensure that they control who sees their personal information.  Explain why they should never give out personal information to people they only know online – this includes name, home address, phone numbers, bank details, PIN numbers and passwords. It’s also a good idea not to have a username or email address that references their age or gender.

Parenting, not filtering
While filtering tools can be useful, they are no substitute for parenting.  Filtering software is problematic as it can block acceptable sites, and overprotecting your kids might convey that you don’t trust them.  Make sure your kids understand your intentions for watching over them.  Include your child when making a set of rules for using the internet.  Being involved will help them understand the dangers and give them a sense of responsibility.  It’s also important that they feel they can tell you if they experience anything inappropriate that worries them.

Contributor:  Emma Baron of Find A Babysitter