The end of the school year brings an abundance of leisure time for many children.
Most parents know that their kids are drawn to electronic devices like bees to flowers anytime of the year. Summer’s increased free time usually means increased online time for children.
For busy, working parents it can be difficult to closely supervise their kids as they roam across websites where danger lurks.
The Better Business Bureau has tips for parents of children who use the summer months to dive into the murky depths of the Internet.
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Foremost is having that parent-child talk that must be the first line of defense against online risks. Talk to your children about their online presence. It is vital that there be open communication between you and your child – communication that goes both ways.
If your child tells you about something upsetting or irregular that they have encountered online, don’t blame or scold them. That could result in their not telling you the next time such things happen.
Instead, help them avoid such problems in the future with gentle instruction. Take the time to try out the apps and online services that your child uses so you can assess whether there is risk involved with them.
Prevalent online threats
Here is a list of Internet risks that children may encounter.
Unfortunately, this list is incomplete and is only meant to spotlight those threats that occur with the highest frequency.
▪ Bullying and harassment. This is most likely to occur through social networking sites and apps or through email or text messages. It’s important to listen to your children and encourage them to discuss their fears and feelings regarding such incidents. The online safety website SafeKids.com has a page of resources to help you deal with cyberbullying.
▪ Reputation-harming online posts. Children may not understand that “online is forever.” What they post can haunt them at some point in the future and may be saved by someone even after it has been deleted. Be sure your kids know this, especially as it applies to photographs. Take the time to use a search engine to check up on what has been posted by or about your children.
▪ Phishing attempts and identity theft. Help your children understand that emails requesting passwords and user names may be fake even though they look legitimate. Links in such emails should not be clicked on. Explain to them that passwords should be shared with absolutely no one (except you in the case of young children.) Be sure your devices’ operating systems and security software are kept up-to-date.
▪ Inappropriate material. Children can easily stumble upon material that is sexual, violent or encourages illegal activity. SafeKids.com has resources for parents who find that their children have been viewing pornography online.
▪ Online predators. Though such incidents make headlines, the risk of a child or teen being harmed by someone they met online is considered to be low. Nevertheless, common-sense rules always apply. Any communication your child has with an unknown person online that veers into subjects like sex or physical details should be ended at once and reported to you. Call your local police if you suspect your child is being contacted for sexual reasons.
Be aware that advertisers are tracking your children online as well. The Better Business Bureau’s Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) has a free online guide that explains privacy issues, cyber-bullying, stalking and other important aspects of online safety for children. Find it and other useful information for parents at www.asrcreviews.org/category/caru/parents-corner.