For some parents, the internet can be a scary place when they start to think about what their kids might get up to – or run into – online.
The vast majority of people in Canada – nearly 87 per cent – have internet connections at home. Smartphone ownership also surpasses the global average: more than half of Canadians (57 per cent) own a smartphone, while 42 percent of people own smartphones worldwide.
In 2014, Facebook Canada reported that 19 million Canadians used Facebook at least once a month, and 14 million were logging in daily.
Facebook isn’t the only popular social networking site to have age restrictions in place. Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Pinterest are just a few examples of social networks that don’t allow users under the age of 13.
But that doesn’t necessarily stop kids from opening up their own accounts. And even if your kids are old enough to be online, it’s still important for everyone in the family to understand online safety.
Here are some Online Safety tips
to help get you started:
- Get to know the different types of risks associated with online activity. Cyberbullying gets a lot of attention and it’s an important issue to be aware of, but so is flaming (online gaming harassment), identify theft (which can include hacking into an account), online sexual exploitation (which might occur when someone is blackmailed or extorted into sending sexual photos or videos of themselves), and being lured by a stranger to meet in person.
- Accept that you can’t monitor your kid’s every move – IRL or online – but you can try to guide them along the way. While they might not be too worried about online safety, try to talk to them about it casually while you’re in the car together, or over lunch.Questions like, “do any of your friends ever get mean comments online?” Or, “Did you hear about that celebrity’s tweet that went viral?” can help start a conversation in a way that allows your kid to be part of a discussion rather than a lesson.
- Model appropriate online behaviour. Online safety is a two-way street and being respectful of other people is just as important as keeping yourself protected. Be kind, calm, and courteous online.
Remember, if you’re not sure whether you should share something, then you probably shouldn’t post it. Help your kids understand the same thing. There can be serious consequences to sharing photos of people without their consent or talking negatively about others, regardless of age.
- Give kids their space and show that you trust them. If your kids are using social networking sites, it might be tempting to want to follow their accounts. Remember, though, that online spaces can be personal places for young people, and they are also social spaces where they hang out with their friends: parents might not be invited to the party.Older kids might not be willing to tell you which social media sites they are using, and might also use pseudonyms or different name spellings to make it harder to search for them online.
Don’t take this as a reason to be suspicious or to punish kids by taking away their devices. If you do have a reason to be worried, talk to them about your concerns, but don’t force your way into their private accounts. They’ll appreciate it, and it can help build communication between you if they see that you are open to letting them make their own decisions.
- Keep your passwords private. If your family shares password-protected devices, change the passwords regularly. You might even want to set a date every month or two in the family calendar where everyone in your household updates their passwords for all accounts and devices. That way, you’ll be able to trust that everyone is doing their best to protect against identity theft.And remember, if you ever think your password might be in someone else’s hands, change it immediately.
- Make it a family rule not to post identifying information, personal details like phone numbers and addresses, or updates about vacation schedules or other times when your home may be empty. It’s tempting to keep your Instagram feed full of photos while you’re on a family vacation, but remember that you’re also broadcasting an empty home to the online world. Even if your privacy settings are high and you trust everyone within your social network, you never know what gets out there and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Help kids understand there is more to life than status updates. This can be a tough one at any age. Social media gives us a lot of instant gratification – instant access to friends who can like and comment on our posts, reassurance about what we’re wearing or doing that day, and new social connections.Sometimes, the allure of likes, retweets, and shares can override good judgment when it comes to posting an update that could hurt someone, or the person sharing it in the first place.
What are some tips for Online Safety that you have to share?