Keeping Kids Safe Online

Around two-thirds of fourth to eighth graders have access to cellphones or tablets and almost half have computers in their bedrooms. Today’s kids are growing up in a world where online activities are the norm. The internet is educational and entertaining and provides a platform for social interaction. But it also poses threats to the safety and wellbeing of young people inexperienced at recognizing danger.

Golden West takes its responsibility of connecting you and your family to the world seriously. Taking the time to teach your kids online safety will help ensure their experience is positive and keep them safe from threats that lurk in the virtual shadows. Here are five things you can do to help.

  1. Talk about internet safety. Knowledge is power. Discuss various risks such as dangerous or inappropriate websites, online frauds and scams, and sexual predators. You may find topics like these uncomfortable to talk about, but don’t shy away from difficult conversations. Maintaining an open dialogue helps ensure their personal safety and encourages them to be honest with you in the future.
  2. Set parental controls. Most games, apps, social media sites, browsers, and electronic devices have built-in privacy settings. These can be adjusted by the parent to an age-appropriate level. Turn on “SafeSearch” in Google Search and Google Images to help filter content. Purchase parental control software for an added layer of protection.
  3. Monitor online activity. Keep an eye on your children’s internet activity by keeping computers and other electronic devices in a common room, setting limits on screen time, having access to their passwords, and reviewing their browsing history regularly. Consider having them sign an online safety contract.
  4. Don’t share personal information. Let your kids know they should never give out personal information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, and social security numbers. Additionally, they should avoid sharing photos and videos on public sites. Drive home the point that images posted online tend to remain there permanently.
  5. Teach kids about boundaries. Stress the importance of saying “no” to inappropriate requests and encourage them to report any questionable activity or behavior to a trusted adult.

Be Aware of Cyberbullying Signs
Cyberbullying — a form of harassment using digital technologies — is especially prevalent, with nearly 60% of teens falling victim. The most common acts include offensive name-calling, spreading false rumors, receiving unsolicited explicit images, physical threats, and sharing explicit images without consent.

Even with strict safeguards in place, there’s still the possibility that your child might be targeted without your knowledge. Be aware of signs, such as:

  • Changes in your child’s behavior, including stress and withdrawal.
  • No longer using the internet or checking their phone.
  • Avoiding social and school events.
  • Declining grades.
  • Loss of appetite and/or trouble sleeping.

If you’re vigilant and keep the lines of communication open, your kids can have a safe and enjoyable online experience.