The Internet is providing new ways for children to learn, communicate and express themselves. Unfortunately, as children become more active online, threats ranging from identity theft to cyber bullying to sexual exploitation are becoming an area of major concern for parents.
The Division of Consumer Protection would like to remind parents and guardians to make monitoring their child’s online presence a priority. Here are some tips to help keep your child safe:
Take Preventative Measures
- Restrict computer usage to a common area of the house so that you may keep an eye on your child’s online activities.
- Avoid keeping username and password combinations in plain view and keep credit card numbers, bank information, and social security numbers in a safe place to prevent the likelihood of your child sharing this information online.
- Communicate to your child the importance of keeping passwords secret from others.
- Do not keep log-in information saved at the sites you visit and tell your child to do the same.
- Make sure that your child understands that not everything on the internet is true and factual.
- Explain to your child that there are people on the internet who lie about who they are and that it is never a good idea to arrange a meeting with online friends.
- Talk to your kids about the consequences of over-sharing online. School admissions officers and employers have been known to check the Internet to gather information about potential candidates.
- Educate your children to beware of spyware – clickable messages that claim to offer free software like music, games, or screensavers often contain harmful spyware that can damage your computer.
- Familiarize yourself with the common shorthand phrases that young people use to communicate online. (Ex: “POS” = “Parent Over Shoulder”)
- Keep your anti-virus software updated to avoid online viruses.
Keep Track of Your Child’s Online Activity
- Learn about the websites your child frequently visits. Familiarize yourself with the site’s privacy policies and security features. If your child has not yet reached the age limit for a particular website but has opened an account anyway, work with him/her to cancel the account or contact the site directly.
- Advise your child to think before posting on any social media site. Better yet, require that all posts gain your approval beforehand. Deleting an item that has already been posted does not guarantee that it is gone forever.
- If your child is active on social media, be sure to monitor his/her profile regularly.
Guard Your Child’s Personal Information
- Be sure that your child understands that information that others can use to either identify or locate your child, such as photos, last name, home address, e-mail address, phone number, or school name should never be shared with strangers over the internet.
- By creating an online profile, your child has the ability to share all kinds of information – including age (birthdate), location, interests, and personal photos. Although it is best to keep this information offline, you may take advantage of the website’s privacy features to prevent your child’s information from falling into the wrong hands.
- Ask that your child refrain from posting photos that reveal which school he/she attends or which places he/she typically frequents.
Using the Internet for Communication
- Make sure that your child’s e-mail address does not include the following:
- Any part of his/her name
- Any part of his/her address
- The year he/she was born
- The name of the school he/she attends
- Request that your child share his/her personal e-mail address only with trusted family members and friends.
- Explain to your child that some e-mails that look genuine are actually trying to trick internet users into handing over information. Links and attachments in e-mails from strangers should be safely ignored.
- Reserve instant messaging only for those friends that are familiar offline.
Teaching Your Child about Appropriate Online Behavior (“Netiquette”)
- Explain to your child that the use of rude, threatening or vulgar language is unacceptable. Using the internet to antagonize, intimidate or otherwise harass individuals is cyber bullying and will not be tolerated.
- Communicate to your child that pretending to be someone else while logged onto that person’s account may be considered a crime.
Dealing with Online Bullies
- Encourage your child to come to you if he/she is being harassed online. Stay calm and assess the severity of the situation. Blocking the contact may provide a solution.
- If the bullying persists, or if a threat to cause physical harm has been made, be sure to keep a record of the harassment and call the police.
- Tell your child to be careful not to let anyone take photos or videos of him/her in a situation that may cause embarrassment if posted online.
- If you become aware of any occurrence of online sexual solicitation of a child, report the event to the CyberTipline by calling 1-800-843-5678.