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Online Safety in the Real World

For the Family

  • The Internet, including all social networks, is a public space.
    Before hitting send, posting a comment or uploading a photo, remember that anything you share online can get into the wrong hands and be broadcast anywhere.
  • Own your privacy on social networks.
    Make checking privacy settings a routine, like brushing teeth. Even adults miss when social network companies change their privacy settings. Online guides explain how to update and manage your privacy on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks. Use them.
  • Use strong passwords (p@>>*rdz$%) for online accounts.
    • Do not share passwords with anyone, ever.
    • Keep them in a safe place.
  • Everything is personal.
    Your personal information includes your name, age, phone number, address and school (and Social Security number, bank account numbers, and medical information). Never share this information online. That goes for surveys, games and apps too.
  • Think before you click.
    Never open an attachment or click on a link in an email or text message if you are not sure what it is or who sent it. It could have viruses or malware that can harm your computer.
  • Nothing is free.
    Be wary of free games, screen savers, or other downloads. These also can carry malware that can harm your computer.

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For Parents

  • Keep up the chatter. Bring online safety essentials into as many conversations as you can, as early as you can. When your toddler watches you using your smart phone say, “I am checking my privacy settings.” When you catch a TV show featuring a teen online or using a cell phone launch a conversation starter like “What would you do?” The same goes for news stories about internet scams or cyberbullying.
  • Steel yourself. In the online realm, “pick your battles” is the parents’ survival tool. Kids say and do things online that will probably upset you, and maybe shock you. To guide your children and help them understand the permanent effect of bad choices on the Internet, pause, and listen to the full story, before you react.
  • “You can talk to me.” Too many young people have kept quiet about harassment and inappropriate interactions because they do not want to get into trouble, with you, the school, or the bully. They fear retaliation above all. At the same time, research shows that when children want help, they turn to their parents.

    If your children come to you about an online problem, avoid banning the Internet. Remember, this is a generation of digital experts. They can go online at friends’ homes or elsewhere. For their well-being, you want their life on the Internet to stay as transparent as possible.

    Cultivate a teamwork approach around online issues. Troubleshoot problems together: “If we tell the principal, what will be the consequences? Let’s make a list of pros and cons.” You may not have all the answers, but being honest about that can go a long way to building trust.
  • Empathize. It is easy to make bad choices online. But just as it is a challenging time to be a parent, it is also a challenging time to be a child or teen.

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