The internet, particularly social media, is an increasingly huge part of our lives— our children are no exception. Unfortunately, while they can reach the world with the click of a mouse, this brings with it risks that our parents never had to consider.
Here are ten things that parents can do to ensure that their kids are surfing the web safely.
1. Know your children’s passwords.
Lots can happen online, but knowing that parents have access to their conversations (and shut things down if things get out of hand) can help to provide an added dose of caution.
2. Keep computers and smart devices out of the bedroom.
If kids need the computer to do homework or want to make a phone call, they can do it in the kitchen or living room. If they need to have a private conversation, there’s always outside.
3. Know the age limits of social apps, and enforce them.
If a social media site has a hard limit of no users under 13, there isn’t any good reason for 11-year-olds to be lying about their age in order to sign up.
4. Remind your kids that nothing is private.
Not text messages, Snapchat photos, private Instagram accounts, or any other online communication. Anything can be a screenshot. And “But my friends/boyfriend/girlfriend/classmates would never do that to me!” isn’t a realistic assumption. Talk about gossip and revenge posting and leaks and how they continue to affect people for years after a bad decision online.
5. Don’t be afraid to remove access as a consequence of irresponsible online behavior.
You know those passwords for a reason. Shut those accounts down, take away the phone, do whatever is necessary if your child has proven they can’t use the internet responsibly. Connectivity is a privilege, not a right.
6. Model safe online behavior yourself.
Use secure passwords. Avoid sexting, sharing negative gossip, or posting anything you wouldn’t want your boss to see online.
7. Have a conversation about pornography.
Yes, it’s uncomfortable. But if your child has access to Google, they also have access to porn. Helping them to understand what it is (and what it isn’t) can help them to make smarter decisions about who they talk to and what websites they visit.
8. Remind them that anonymity goes both ways.
Yes, it’s fun that you can pretend to be older or more popular or more good looking on the internet. But so can everyone else. Whether it’s catfishing adults, “Nigerian princes” looking for some cash, or a fake news story hoping for a click or twenty thousand, people are not always what they seem.
9. Keep an eye out for changes in your child’s behavior online.
If one account suddenly goes dark, keep an eye out for a private one that may have sprung up in its place. (This is where you might need to jump back to #5, serious consequences.) If they’re suddenly obsessed with an innocent-seeming news or game app, something might be up. A change in behavior isn’t necessarily bad (sometimes, it really is just a Scrabble obsession or downloading teen romance novels from the public library), but it’s worth investigating.
10. If someone seems to be grooming your child, report it ASAP.
Yes, reporting suspicious behavior that looks like potential abuse can be nerve-wracking. But it’s important to remember that it’s not your job to know for certain whether or not something is dangerous or illegal, that’s the responsibility of the authorities. You leave the tip, they make the call. And the more information they have, the more likely they are to be able to make a difference.
Using an app like Torch makes reporting suspicious activity easy. It guides you through the process and makes sure the information is sent to the correct agency. And it’s completely anonymous.
Download Torch today and help and help keep kids safe online.