immunizeNet’s top 6 online safety tips
1. Consider where you place the computer and where children are allowed to use their mobile devices
In a home with children, where you place the family computer and where children are allowed to use their mobile device are very important decisions. Consider setting up the computer in a high-traffic family area and limit the number of hours your children spend on it. The same applies to mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, iPod's etc.). The highest % of cyber bullying, sexting and access to age-inappropriate content comes from mobile devices used in a child/teen's bedroom.
2. Set boundaries & rules
Decide exactly what is okay and what is not okay with regard to:
- The websites that are visited
- Social media networks
- Apps on mobile devices
- Online Games
- Chat rooms
Take time in particular to familiarise yourself with social networking, messaging or photo/video sharing apps & sites your child is using (or wants to use) – and decide if they are appropriate for your child’s age. Many apps albeit popular amongst children and teenagers are designed for adults and contain strong adult material (example: Kik) – you can find a complete guide of popular apps and sites on the immunizeNet website here.
3. Together, agree upon family digital rules. We recommend the following:
- Don’t use user names that reveal a child’s true identity
- Never reveal your passwords
- Don’t reveal phone numbers or addresses
- Only post information that reveals your identity amongst people you know if real life
- Don’t post inappropriate photos or ones that may reveal your identity
- (for example: city or school names on shirts)
- Never share any information with strangers met online
- Never meet face-to-face with strangers met online
- Never open attachments from strangers
- Don’t click on pop-up ads
Once you have established the rules, you could post them next to the computer.
4. Use Parental Controls & Privacy Settings
Take time to learn how these controls & settings work, and use options that filter and block inappropriate material and protect your child’s online privacy. You can find free tutorials on parental controls and privacy settings on the immunizeNet website here.
These controls help to keep children safe from exposure to inappropriate content, social networking risks, strangers, and other online threats. Of course, these tools have their limitations. Nothing can take the place of attentive and responsive parents who monitor their children when they are online
5. Remind your child that people they meet only online are strangers.
No matter how often you chat with online “friends,” no matter how long you’ve been chatting, and no matter how well you think you know them, people you meet online are strangers. It is easy to lie and pretend you are someone else when you are online. Kids especially need to know that a new “friend” may really be an adult rather than someone their own age. Social networking websites like Facebook or Google+ are an ideal way to meet new people online. Therefore, you might want to visit these sites and check out your children’s profile to ensure that inappropriate conversations are not taking place and that inappropriate photos are not being posted. You might want to monitor your children’s instant messaging conversations to make sure they aren’t being bullied or pursued by an online predator.
6. Create Strong Passwords
To create passwords that are difficult to crack, start by using at least 8 characters and then use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols. Passwords should be changed periodically to reduce the likelihood of a particular password being compromised over time. And don't use the same password for multiple accounts.
Techniques for strong passwords:
• Use a vanity license plate: “GR8way2B”
• Use several small words with punctuation marks: “betty,boop$car”
• Put punctuation in the middle of a word: “Roos%velt”
• Use an unusual way of contracting a word: “ppcrnbll”
• Use the first letter of each word in a phrase, with a random number:
“hard to crack this password” = “htc5tp”
• Don’t share your passwords!