This week I thought I’d go over some good tips to think about in order to help your kids (and maybe you) communicate safely online. Hint, they all involve talking to your kids, but also have some practical things to do. These are things to think about and hopefully do sooner than later.
- Talk to your kids about online manners. Today is the day you can start to talk to your kids about this. It’s very similar to how they talk to people in person, but with a few other things to think about. Remind them that politeness counts. Any time you talk via email or text, there’s no visual, interpersonal feedback so things you say can more easily be taken the wrong way. Sometimes we may smile or laugh when we talk face to face, but since we don’t have that, smilies and other emoticons or LOLs can really help. Toning things down in email is just a good idea anyway. Be especially careful with the “reply all” button, and at all costs, avoid chain letters or constant forwards or replies. They often contain everyone’s email address from the whole chain and will contain yours too.
- Set high privacy preferences on your kids’ instant message and video calling accounts. I often get unsolicited requests to chat via skype, AIM,, Gtalk or other instant message services. you can usually turn those off, or at least make sure they “ignore” or “block” anyone they don’t know that tries to contact them.
- Know your kids’ offline and online friends. Just like we all like to know who are kids are playing with, it’s also good to know who they’re chatting with online and from where these strangers are chatting. Unfortunately, there are people that try to pretend they’re something or someone they’re not. Help your kids understand this and let them know you want them to have the best friends in the world and how you can help. Also, to NEVER plan n meeting anyone they’ve met online without you knowing or going.
- Talk to your kids about using strong email passwords and protecting them. I’ve been in the internet world for more than 15 years building websites, database applications, ecommerce applications, marketing presentations and hosting websites. I can’t tell you how often I see websites and email accounts trying to be hacked. It’s really a constant pressure that hackers put on the rest of the world by ALWAYS hitting logins to try to guess passwords with automated scripts. They reason they keep trying is because it works and they often get into accounts and when they do, they just cause problems. So, keep passwords complicated. A good example is something like this: avid%ged=vims72 . Of course, how do you remember them? A good product to use is called 1Password which keeps all your highly complicated passwords locked up in military grade encryption, to be used only when you enter the 1 super secure password that you CAN remember. (Links for: 1Password Pro for Mac, 1Password for iPad, 1Password for iPhone, iPassword for Windows.)
- Know the devices your kids use to get online. How many of you have an Xbox or Wii? Those devices are typically connected to the internet and can connect to other users for chat sessions. This is a good time to check the settings and definitely talk to your kids about it.
- What houses do your kids go to? Just like knowing who will be there at their friend’s house, it’s a good idea to know what their internet set up is like. Do they have online filters? Do they have computers in private rooms or not? How about their Xbox of Wii? Do they have rules at all? Talking to their friend’s parents might be a good idea and it will maybe help them too.
- What Social Media networks are your kids in that you aren’t? I believe that, as hard as it may be, you need to be in every Social Media outlet your kids are in. This is so you can answer questions when they come up and prepare them by helping them set up their accounts properly. I believe in staying ahead of your kids in this realm, but if it’s not possible to be ahead right now, you can try to make it fun to have them teach you.
And, the one thing that I believe is the most important thing to remember:
- Internet Safety is more about your relationship with your children, than about technology. Talk with your kids. Let them know your interested. Be there. stay up late to figure out Facebook and twitter and pinterest and apps… It’s absolutely worth it.