Cyber safety is an important parent-child discussion to revisit frequently with your child, from elementary school through high school. Experts warn that children are most vulnerable to online dangers while in their own home. While many potential dangers are filtered so students can't access them at schools, parents sometimes forget that children may have direct access to inappropriate sites at home.
Here are some things to review with your child or teen:
Anything they do or post online creates a digital record, often called your "Cyber Footprint." Nothing online is totally private, even if you intend it to be. Once digitized, it can be saved, sent and reposted elsewhere.
A good rule of thumb: If you don't want a parent, teacher, principal, future employer or college admissions office to know something, don't post it online.
"Friends" aren't always who they say they are; undercover police and pedophiles pretend to be kids online.
Never post personal information online. This includes: full name, address, phone number, email, where you are meeting friends or where you hang out.
Limit Access to Your Kids' Profiles and Monitor privacy settings
Many social networking sites and chat rooms have adjustable privacy settings, so you can restrict who has access to your kids' profiles. Talk to your kids about the importance of these settings, and your expectations for who should be allowed to view their profile.
Set high privacy preferences on your kids' chat and video chat accounts, as well. Most chat programs allow parents to control whether people on their kids' contact list can see their status, including whether they're online. Some chat and email accounts allow parents to determine who can send messages to their kids, and block anyone not on the list.
Create a safe screen name
Encourage your kids to think about the impression that screen names can make. A good screen name won't reveal much about how old they are, where they live, or their gender. For privacy purposes, your kids' screen names should not be the same as their email addresses.
Review your child's friends list
You may want to limit your children's online "friends" to people they actually know.
Because they often don't see facial expressions, body language, and other visual cues when they're online, teens may feel free to do or say things that they wouldn't otherwise. Remind them that behind the screen names, profiles, and avatars are real people with real feelings.
When you talk to your teen, set reasonable expectations. Anticipate how you will react if you find out that he has done something online you don't approve of.
Social networking sites, chat rooms, virtual worlds, and blogs are how teens and tweens socialize online; it's important to help your child learn how to navigate these spaces safely. Among the pitfalls that come with online socializing are sharing too much information or posting comments, photos, or videos that can damage a reputation or hurt someone's feelings.
Talk to your kids
Applying real-world judgment can help minimize those risks.When your kids begin socializing online, you may want to talk to them about certain risks:
Inappropriate conduct: The online world can feel anonymous. Kids sometimes forget that they are still accountable for their actions.
Inappropriate contact: Some people online have bad intentions, including bullies, predators, hackers, and scammers.
Inappropriate content: You may be concerned that your kids could find pornography, violence, or hate speech online.
You can reduce these risks by talking to your kids about how they communicate - online and off - and encouraging them to engage in conduct they can be proud of.