Tools for Parents
Activities that may seem fairly harmless to your child can lure the many dangers of technology. There are some precautions your child can take, along with your help, that may help youth be safe with technology.
Different ages, maturity levels and special circumstances dictate what’s appropriate for each child. Banning youth from certain sites may motivate them to sneak time on them. The most important thing parents can do is stay involved with kids.
- Limit device usage to a well-trafficked area in your home. Consider having your child check-in their devices at a certain time at night away from bedrooms.
- Schedule times when a child can be on technology
- Insist on access (including passwords) to social networks, email, gaming, and devices. Monitor periodically.
- Watch for changes in your child’s relationships with adults. Adults who work with youth have professional boundaries; cultivating significant technological relationships with individual children is not appropriate.
It’s important for youth to know that anything they post can be saved. Viewers can screenshot or save and distribute photos or text. This means sexual images, photos depicting drug use, gang signs, threats or criminal behavior are all potentially permanent for their classmates, friends, enemies, parents and strangers.
- The images, opinions and personal information shared can be used by others to manipulate, blackmail, or physically locate a person. Choose a neutral profile photo that doesn’t show faces. Consider an image of an object or landscape.
- Never take nude or semi-nude photos of yourself or allow someone else to do so
- Never give out names, addresses, phone numbers or school information
- Select gender-neutral and age-appropriate screen names. You can inadvertently give out unwanted information with a screen name like “britt03” (Brittany, born in 2003). Screen names that suggest sex, violence or drugs, which might seem fun, can draw attention from the wrong people.
- Lock down your privacy settings so that only approved friends can see photos, video and updates
- Only accept friend requests from people you actually know, and trust and meet with face to face
- If you are contacted, in any format, by someone you don’t know, do not respond. Use your settings to block that person from contacting you
- Never agree to meet someone in person whom you met through technology. If you’re contacted by an adult you know, talk to your parents about the communication
Install Safety Software
Software is an effective way to filter dangerous content. This software usually comes with tools like time management, remote monitoring and reporting, and keystroke recognition. Check with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Some ISP’s have filters you can purchase or they may provide filters for free. Visit a local electronics or computer store to examine and purchase a filtering software program or research and order a filtering software package. There are safety features available for cell phones as well, such as My Mobile Watch Dog.
Foster Open Communication
Open communication and trust is key. If your child comes to you about stumbling upon pornography or being approached by a stranger, they should be applauded. Many parents overreact out of fear and love. They tell their child they cannot go to that specific site or prohibit technology use altogether. That defeats all trust and closes the door to communication. After all, tech-savvy youth can easily delete incoming text messages and images. Parents must be vigilant.
- You may control your child’s environment at home, but when they are away from home someone else might not share your same rules and concerns. Set guidelines as well as consequences.
- Make sure you are clear with your youth about what you consider appropriate technology behavior. Just as certain clothing is probably off-limits and certain language is unacceptable in your house, let your children know what is and is not allowed with technology.
- Make sure your kids understand that messages and pictures they send are not private or anonymous and could be shared with school administrators and potential employers. Also, ensure they understand the short-term and long-term consequences of their actions.
- Teach your child that if they encounter pornography to quickly power off and get an adult. This can prevent a child from attempting to stop the situation by clicking more buttons and thereby spreading the attack. Talk with your child about the dangers of pornography. The addiction to pornography can become just as dangerous as an addiction to drugs.