The internet is an amazing tool that, when used well, allows your child to access a wealth of knowledge to help them learn and grow. But there are many dangers lurking online that your child needs to be aware of, too.
Because of the unique nature of the school year, more children than ever will be participating in virtual learning, spending their days logged onto a computer instead of in a classroom interacting face-to-face with their peers. The additional time spent online means that students may be more vulnerable to online hazards. Take these steps to make sure your child has a safe online learning environment.
Sign Your Kids up for an Online Safety Education Program
Kids are too young to fully know and understand the dangers lurking on the internet. Help them understand internet hazards in an age-appropriate way by signing them up to take an online safety education course.
One such course is taught by The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Their NetSmartz program provides videos and activities to help children learn the potential online risks and help them make safer choices on and offline.
Keep Security up to DateProtect your children and their devices from hackers by ensuring you keep all programs on their computer up to date. Run updates, install patches and make sure you install anti-virus or anti-malware software on their computers before use.
Install Parental ControlsKids are spending more time than ever in front of their screens, which can inadvertently lead to browsing on websites you don't want them to access. By installing parental controls like computer monitoring software, you'll be able to filter websites, block apps, games and other distracting media, and regulate your child's purchases online.
Keep Personal Information out of UsernamesKeep your child's online identity anonymous by avoiding usernames with identifying details. Usernames that hint at your child's age, location, last name or other important identifying details should be avoided. It's also important to talk to your child about online safety and make sure they know they should never give out personal information online, even if the person they are chatting with appears to be a friend. If your child is contacted online by someone they do not know, make sure they alert you immediately.
Have Rules About Where Your Child Can Video Conference
Depending on school policy, your child may be required to log onto a video conferencing platform so they can interact with their classmates and teachers. While video conferencing is a great tool, it also comes with its own set of dangers, as you can't control what your child might be exposed to on the other end of the video chat.
To protect your child's safety, set rules in your home about video conferencing, including requiring that your child video conferences in a shared space in the home, such as the living room or kitchen, so you can monitor their online interactions.
Check With Your School's Internet Use PoliciesMany school districts across the county have mandated virtual schooling and are providing laptops for kids to learn with at home. Before your child logs onto their school-provided laptop, make sure you both understand the school's technology use policy. Should your child decide to visit a website or download a program that is not allowed on the school's devices, they could find themselves in violation of the policy and in trouble at school.
Talk to Your Kids About Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place over digital devices. As school shifts online this year, cyberbullying has the potential to become even more commonplace. Talk to your child about appropriate and inappropriate interactions with their peers online, and help them identify behaviors that may constitute as cyberbullying. If they see their peers cyberbullying, ask that they alert you immediately.