How To Talk To Kids About Online Safety
It’s a different world for kids today. The age of the internet and the advance of smartphones have created dangers that kids who grew up with Commodore 64s and rotary phones never had to worry about. So how do you talk to your kids about online safety when you are still learning the ins-and-outs yourself? A good way is to start with an extension of the “stranger danger” conversation. If you wouldn’t talk to a stranger on the street, don’t talk to a stranger online. Similarly, hacking is not unlike someone breaking into your house. You don’t keep valuable things out in the open in your house, so why would you leave your computer open to hackers? There’s a false sense of security when you are sitting in front of a computer screen, but it can be deceiving. It’s important to teach your kids to have a healthy attitude toward the internet and ways to navigate it safely. Here are some general safety guidelines to discuss with your kids:
Warn against clicking on links or opening attachments from unknown sources.
Password protect your phone and computer and don’t allow other people to use them unless you have discussed it with a parent first.
Question any request for sensitive information even if it appears to be from a reputable source.
Don’t click on online ads or pop up messages.
Use antivirus/security software that provides basic protection on multiple devices.
Consider additional features like parental controls, firewalls, a password manager and safe browsing.
Another important element of this conversation surrounds emotional and mental health. Screen time may affect sleep habits, anxiety, depression, inactivity and a variety of other health issues. Help your children understand any potential side effects: How do they feel when they’ve been on the internet or their smartphone all day? When do they feel their best? What do they enjoy doing the most?
If they are chatting for hours with one friend, why not get together in person? How do they feel when you’re on your phone all the time? Help your kids set priorities and recognize both the benefits and negative impacts of the internet on their lives. Ultimately, it’s about helping children find a healthy balance.
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