With the rush to finish up the school year and get organized for the summer, you probably missed the memo that June is Internet Safety Month. But given that today’s kids are just as likely to socialize online this summer as they are at camp, it’s a good time to have a chat with them about smart online habits – and brush up on your own security, too.
Here are some key tips for parents to review with their kids this month:
Be a Smart Socializer
Whether posting on Instagram, sending silly pics on Snapchat, or using any of the thousands of other social apps and sites, young people love to share. Internet Safety Month is a good time to remind them to think about what they are sharing, and with whom.
- Share with care: Sharing provocative photos or intimate details online, even in private emails, can cause problems later on. Even people you consider friends can use the information you share online against you.
- Be smart about pictures: It’s fun to share pictures and, yes, they can sometimes be wacky. But you never know who might see them or how they might affect you in the future.
- Avoid in-person meetings with people you don’t know: It is not necessarily bad to interact with strangers online, but be careful with what information you share and very careful (by letting someone else know or having someone accompany you) before agreeing to meet someone you do not know.
- Tell an adult about cyberbullying: If someone you know – or even someone you don’t – is being harassed online, it’s just as serious as physical confrontations. Even if it’s a difficult conversation, tell an adult you trust so together you can address the problem.
Take Gaming Safety to the Next Level
Regardless of what platform they use, kids are increasingly connected when they play games online. Parents and kids should be aware of what information might be shared online with other players.
- Chat carefully: If a game allows you to chat with other players, be careful about the information you disclose, like personal information about you or even your physical location.
- Take a break: Video games can be fun, but so is physical activity, socializing in person, reading and plain old downtime. It is a good idea to balance summertime activities. Get out when the weather is nice!
- Know what your kids are playing: Parents should check video games’ ratings and read reviews to be sure they are appropriate for children. The Entertainment Software Rating Board provides game ratings, and Common Sense Media provides reviews of many games, movies and TV shows.
Connected Kids and Phones
Many kids carry phones which can help them stay connected and keep in touch with their families. However, smartphones also run apps for interactive games that can share locations and so much more.
- Know the apps: Be aware of the apps your kids use. Make sure they are only downloaded from reputable app stores and check their privacy disclosures and settings.
- Be location savvy: Apps that share your location with friends and family can be great, but be sure only the right people can find out where you are.
- Lock your phone: Make sure that you have a secret PIN (personal identification number), a password, fingerprint setting or other security measures in place so that only you can access your phone.
- Know how to locate and wipe your phone: There are free tools like Apple’s iCloud Find my Phone and Google’s Android Device Manager that will help you find your device (if it’s turned on) or wipe it clean if it’s lost.
Teach Them Good Password Habits
With the amount of things kids do online these days, it’s never too early to instill in them a healthy approach to password security – and online security measures in general.
- Think passphrases: The best passwords are very long, and the best way to remember long passwords is to come up with strings of words peppered with symbols and numbers to create a “passphrase”.
- Unique site, unique password: Every app and website you use should have a different password. That way, a security issue on one service won’t jeopardize the security of your other accounts, and will go a long way in protecting your personal information online.
- Passwords are private: Don’t share your password, even with friends, boyfriends, or girlfriends. It’s hard to imagine, but friendships and relationships change, and you don’t want to be impersonated or mistreated by anyone.
- Use a password manager: It’s hard to create strong passwords, let alone remember them all. A password manager keeps them in one safe place, so you always have your passwords and don’t need to worry about your password security.
What tips are you sharing with your kids this summer? Tell us in the comments below!