Planning to get your kids a smartphone or tablet? With schools using technology in classes and kids being exposed to these devices at an early age, the question is often a matter of when, not if. Parents may have questions and concerns about how to keep kids safe online. Here are some tips and resources that can help.
Set the rules
The first thing you can do to help protect your children online is to set ground rules:
- Outline how much time during the day they can spend on the device
- Establish who your children can call
- Discuss how to behave respectfully online
For a fee, many cell phone providers offer parental controls and location services to help you manage usage times and limit who your child can place calls to and receive calls from.
Social networking safety
With devices come apps, and many social networking apps involve setting up a profile and sharing information around common interests or activities. These apps can be fun and addicting, but if you aren’t familiar with them yourself, they can be intimidating. Check out the sites and services your child uses.
Discuss what is and is not appropriate to post, so that your child doesn’t share more information online than you are comfortable with. The following tips from the National Cyber Security Alliance can help your child think before he or she posts:
- Keep personal info personal: Be cautious about how much personal information you provide on social networking sites. The more information you post, the easier it may be for a hacker or someone else to use that information to steal your identity, access your data or commit other crimes such as stalking.
- Know and manage your friends: Social networks can be used for a variety of purposes. Some of the fun is creating a large pool of friends from many aspects of your life. That doesn’t mean all friends are created equal. Use tools to manage the information you share with friends in different groups or even have multiple online pages. If you’re trying to create a public persona as a blogger or expert, create an open profile or a “fan” page that encourages broad participation and limits personal information. Use your personal profile to keep your real friends (the ones you know and trust) up to date with your daily life.
- Be honest if you’re uncomfortable: If a friend posts something about you that makes you uncomfortable or seems inappropriate, let them know. Likewise, stay open minded if a friend approaches you because something you’ve posted makes him or her uncomfortable. People have different tolerances for how much the world knows about them respect those differences.
Prevent cyber bullying
Cyber bullying involves threats or harassment that happens online. This can be words or pictures that are posted with the intention of hurting someone’s reputation or feelings. The OnGuardOnline website sponsored by the Federal Trade Commission gives tips to recognize and prevent cyber bullying and provides additional resources for parents. The Cyberbullying Research Center also provides guidelines for parents.
This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.