Stay Safe Online — Stop. Think. Connect.
Today's children typically know much more about the Internet than their parents, but aren't always aware of the risks. Our children are being exposed to a lot of information – some good and some not so good.
With technology constantly changing, it’s tough to keep up. This section explains the current risks our children (and other family members) face online and simple ways to protect your family. Review the articles and presentations in the Topic Library to learn more, such as the Safer Social Networking presentation (PDF).
Risk: Over Sharing
Assume anything you post on a social network site is visible to the public – no matter what your privacy settings are:
- Privacy settings tend to be confusing and hard to configure properly, leaving your site unintentionally visible
- Some social networking sites have “reset” everybody’s privacy settings without notification, and
- Friends of friends of friends may have to access your pages.
When you post that you’re at a concert or on vacation, you’re telling a potential stalker where you are and a potential thief that you’re not home (so he can rob your house).
When you post pictures and personal information about children, you’re exposing them to the world. While there are many good folks, there are also some bad ones who troll social networking sites. These include bullies, predators, and gang members. You’re also giving personal information to marketers and other organizations that collect demographic information on people.
When you post pictures that show you engaging in, um, “fun” activities, remember that a future mother-in-law, boss, college recruiter, or spouse may see them.
And it's not just children. For example, a wife learned of husband’s 2nd wedding when she saw the wedding picture on Facebook.
Risk: Cyber Bullying
Cyber bullying is using Internet email, instant messaging, chat rooms, pagers, cell phones, or other technologies to deliberately and repeatedly hurt, taunt, ridicule, threaten or intimidate someone.
Cyber bullying is often worse than being bullied in person. Cyber bullies can be meaner because they may be anonymous online. It’s also harder to escape from cyber bullies, because we’re constantly using technology.
Responding to Cyber Bullying
Here are ways to protect your family from cyber bullying and respond to it.
- Don’t delete bullying messages (you may need them as evidence)
- Don’t escalate the issue – don’t respond to bullying messages
- Do tell parents, school, and/or authorities
- Use email filters to block messages from bullies
- Set firm limits on cell phone and Internet use, and
Outline your expectations to your family, explain why, and have consequences if they disobey.
Sexting is texting a racy photo of yourself (or just a body part) from your cell phone to another phone, emailing it to a friend, or posting it online. We mostly hear about celebrities and politicians sexting. Yet according to an August 2011 MTV/AP survey, 1 in 3 teens have engaged in some form of sexting.
There are three simple ways you can reduce most of the risk to your family from Internet threats.
Put the family PC in the middle of the living room so you can see what’s going on.
Teach your kids to stop and think before connecting to an Internet site.
Have “The Talk” with kids (and spouse!). Make it a conversation, not a lecture. Key points should include:
- Online actions have real-world consequences
- Be careful when posting – you can’t take it back
- Don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say to a person’s face
- Trust your gut if you’re suspicious — predators are out there
- Some info should stay private, like full name, address, picture, location, and
- Never meet an online contact alone and without parental knowledge.