How can I keep my kids safe online?
For many of us, it’s hard to recall the days before the existence of the internet and today, there are multiple generations who will never know a world without constant, immediate and instant updates. As our lives become more and more intertwined with the internet, it is more important than ever to know how to keep ourselves and our children safe online. Things like protecting personal information, preventing cyberbullying and being aware of online risks are all important for keeping ourselves safe and secure online.
Jacque Cutillo, Assistant Clinical Director of Youth Villages Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, answers our most asked questions from parents about internet safety.
How can I keep my kids safe on social media?
Many social media sites have a parent’s/caregiver’s section that provides information on securing accounts and safety tips. Parental settings can be established through most home internet providers. Check with your internet provider to create privacy settings for your child but keep in mind that your child can reset this setting by unplugging the router. Have ongoing conversations with your child and remind them what’s safe to share online and what isn’t – for example, we never want to share our exact location or when we’ll be out of our home. It’s tough for kids today because they are growing up in a world where they are constantly bombarded by social media updates but remind them about the dangers of sharing every aspect of their lives in real time. A great example is vacation. Don’t post vacation photos or “check-in” to the airport until after you’ve returned home. You don’t want strangers to know you are in the Bahamas and won’t be back until next Thursday (and your house will be empty until then).
School vacation is coming up. How can caregivers (like grandparents and babysitters) keep kids safe on social media when I’m not available to monitor my child’s activity?
You should have access to your child’s social media and/or have a designated grown up who has access and can keep tabs on their internet footprint. Explain social media and the potential concerns to whoever is caring for your children. It’s ok to limit technology access when it cannot be effectively supervised. Set reasonable limits for your child.
Ugh Tik Tok! How do I explain to my kid that some of these challenges are dangerous – or even deadly?
Parents should be aware of trending Tik Tok challenges and how dangerous they can be. Get on Tik Tok and see what your kids are being exposed to. Have an open-ended conversation with your child about the dangers of social media and being influenced – especially around engaging in dangerous behavior. Identify the factors that would make someone want to participate and what the end results could be. Remind kids about and practice refusal skills – it’s OK to say no to a Tik Tok challenge!
What are some tools and resources that can help me with internet safety?
There are many tools out there designed to help keep your child safe online. Here are some that can help you get started:
A forum for caregivers, teen educators and advocates to give teens and parents a voice in the public discussion about youth online safety as well as tips and other resources.
Common Sense Media
A resource for caregivers that includes reviews and information on several different types of media that youth consume, including social media.
You can choose between Bark Phone, Bark Home or the Bark App to connect with over 30 platforms and monitor text messages, emails and social activity for any signs of harmful interactions or content.
A notification set up through Google that you receive if anything is posted on the internet about your child.
Smart Phones for Kids
There are a number of kid-safe tech options for phones and watches (such as Pinwheel and Gabb) that allow for caregiver access and oversight over how their child is using their smart phone.