Most millennials grew up when computers were not yet a staple in every home and accessing the web involved dial-up and waiting for the screeching sound to connect to AOL. For kids today, the internet is a given, almost as natural as reading and writing. With many positives about the internet, there are also dangers, especially for kids. How can we give our children all the benefits of the internet while keeping them safe?
The answer is…education. Generation Z was born into a world in which the internet has always existed. They do not view it as new technology and are not as cautious as their parents. Plus, they are kids. They cannot always anticipate the results of their actions and tend to think they are invincible. It is up to parents, teachers, and mentors to teach children how to stay safe online.
5 Tips for Kids to Stay Safe Online
Teaching kids about internet safety does not mean scaring them, but rather increasing awareness and promoting caution. Here are some tips to share.
1. Do not post personal information online
This is a hard one to teach, because adults post personal things on Facebook and Instagram. However, there is a difference between adults posting pics of lunches and political opinions and kids posting contact information such as full name, home address, email address, phone number, school, etc. Children may not understand the nuances between what is okay to post. Therefore, a blanket rule of not posting personal info is the best means to stay out of harm’s way.
2. Avoid strangers online
Early on, toddlers are taught not to talk to strangers. Yet on the internet, kids often forget this basic rule. It’s easy to communicate with people you don’t know when they seem so far away. Unfortunately, strangers can get close pretty quickly. Befriending strangers online can lead to anything from child abuse to stolen identity. Worse, it can lead to in-person meetups with someone who poses a real threat to your child. Therefore, help your child avoid these situations by employing the golden rule of not talking to strangers. And meeting a stranger in-person is out of the question.
3. Report cyberbullying
Cyberbullying, unfortunately, is all too common these days. Bullies are not limited to people in immediate circles as they can now use the entire expanse of the internet as playgrounds. According to Statista, 59% of teenagers in the United States reported experiencing cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is not just “kids being kids.” The results can be far more devastating. Studies show that children who experience cyberbullying are twice as likely to attempt suicide and self-harm.
In light of this reality, it is important for adults to speak with kids about cyberbullying and make it known that they can provide a listening ear. At the same time, parents should talk to their kids about not being cyber bullies. Kids can sometimes get swept up in the freedom of the internet, so discussing the importance of respect and kindness can go a long way.
4. Use best cybersecurity practices
Most adults have antivirus protection on their computers, but what about phones and tablets? Teach your kids to be responsible by having updated antivirus software on their devices. Additionally, teach them about keeping their passwords safe, using a password manager, and two-factor authentication whenever possible. Teach them to look for the padlock icon next to a site’s URL so they know the site is secure. These internet security practices are the best defenses against hackers and cybercriminals.
5. Trust your gut
It’s hard to create rules for every situation, so the final advice is for your children to trust their gut and use common sense. If something feels wrong, it probably is. This is true for both digital and in-person communication. If something feels strange, wrong, or simply icky, they should stop interacting with that person, app, platform, website, etc.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Adults can help children stay safe on the internet by keeping an open line of communication. This way, if something goes wrong, they will feel comfortable coming to you for help.
For additional resources and guidance, the Interfor team is here to help.