The holidays are a frenzied time for all parents, as they juggle family and festivities. With so much on your mind, it’s getting increasingly difficult to ensure your kids’ online safety. It’s especially hard if they receive gifts such as computers, smartphones or iPads (one of the most coveted gifts that teens are asking for this year) that make it easier than everto get online.
While it may seem impossible to safeguard your children from online dangers during this busy time, you can do a lot more than you might think:
- Encourage a positive online reputation: Oversharing, cyberbullying and other online hazards can seriously affect kids’ online reputations. The most direct precaution to take against these risks is to talk to your kids about how they use the Internet. Discuss their activity on social networking sites – especially if they have more time on their hands during their holiday break – and come up with strategies for using websites wisely.
- Keep computer usage in shared family rooms: The best way to monitor your kids’ Internet use is to put the computer in living or family rooms, especially if they’re going to be around the house more often while school’s out. This also encourages them to share positive findings and activities online, such as festive videos that put everyone in the holiday spirit.
- Discuss technology use: If your child has just received a new smartphone or iPad, now is the time to set ground rules or limitations on how often they use these devices. With more personal ways to access the Internet – and more time to spare during vacation – kids shouldn’t be spending all their time online. Also make sure that with their current free time they aren’t friending random people just out of boredom.
- Make sure personal information isn’t shared online: Even if your child is excited about making plans with friends during their school break, remind them that the more information they put online, the more access other people (cyberstalkers, cyberbullies) have to them. They should avoid oversharing any information meant for only close friends or family.
- Reinforce courtesy and politeness: Although you can’t control the behavior of everyone your kids interact with online, you can stress the importance of being polite to avoid bullying and minimize arguments. Remind your kids that it’s just as important to be considerate and compassionate on the Internet as it is in the real world.
- Block or filter sites if necessary: Kids can be impulsive, and they might get restless after a few days away from school during their holiday break. With monitoring software and services, you can have a better idea of how they’re spending their time online.
- Make strict rules about chat rooms and chat software: Unfortunately, chat rooms are havens for cyberbullies and online predators. And it’s not just your kids who are on a holiday vacation! Parents of young kids may want to disallow chat rooms altogether, or you can only allow your kids to chat with known and approved friends.
- Monitor downloads: Free downloads that kids get really excited about – music, videos, games – can make your system vulnerable to viruses, spyware or attacks. Encourage your kids to ask permission before downloading anything onto the computer, or find holiday music or games that you can download and enjoy together.
Of course there’s no surefire way to completely safeguard against online threats, but taking these measures will help your kids. While we all have a lot on our plates during the holiday season, we should make it a priority to take the time and talk to our kids about their online activity.
What other holiday safety tips can you think of?