Our kids have been back in school for a couple weeks now. And while they may not be spending as much time online as they were when they were home a lot during the holidays, it’s still important to maintain safe social networking practices in the New Year. That’s why we came up with a list of New Year’s Resolutions for parents interested in keeping their kids safe online. These resolutions target online reputation management, online safety, and online privacy.
- Resolve to stay on top of your kids’ online activities – It’s important to have a good understanding of different social networking sites and trends that your kids might be involved with. One way to do this is get good grasp on how people communicate online. Try to learn more about different online terms and lingo; this will also help you talk more openly with your kids about what they do online.
- Resolve to be courteous and polite online – Cyberbullying only got worse last year but that doesn’t mean all kids say hurtful things online. Whether your kids are the bullies or the bullied, everyone can stand to be a little kinder online this year, and you can lead by example with how you act online.
- Resolve to only use secure online connections – While WiFi hotspots and other open networks are convenient, they aren’t always safe. Protect both yourself and your kids by being careful where you go online so that you don’t risk any kind of online theft or fraud.
- Resolve to update your privacy settings – Social networking sites update and adjust their privacy settings more often than you might think. In the New Year, make it a priority to have a full understanding of privacy settings on whatever networks with which you have accounts so that both you and your kids can maintain better online safety.
- Resolve to better understand what “oversharing” means – It’s easy to do – we post our age, address, phone numbers, or past schools and jobs online and immediately we’ve given out too much information. You wouldn’t give a completely stranger your phone number or address in the offline world, so why do it in the online world?
- Resolve to change passwords - You should do this throughout the year anyway, and now is as good a time as any! Passwords should be changed frequently and should never contain any words of phrases that are overly personal (name, address, birthday).
- Resolve to be more careful with online activity over the phone – Phones not only allow people to get into all sorts of trouble with sexting; they also provide a way to announce to the entire online world where you are at any given time. Foursquare, Facebook Places, and other smartphone applications allow for serious oversharing. If you do use these features, try to include as little detail as possible.
- Resolve to update your online friends – If you haven’t communicated with a Facebook or other social networking “friend” in the past year, chances are you probably won’t in the future. You won’t be hurting someone’s feelings if you delete them as a friend; chances are they don’t know you that well either and won’t even notice that the “friendship” is over.
- Resolve to Google yourself – You might be surprised at what you find, and you can then take the appropriate steps to get rid of any information that shouldn’t pop up as soon as you – or someone else – hit “Search.” Also Google your kids; this is even more important as there might be information about them from their school, teams, or other groups they’re involved with.
- Resolve to take a break from technology – Take a cue from the Modern Family clip below. On the show, the whole family is involved in a bet to see who caves and uses their phone or Internet first. Taking a break from the computer as a family can actually be fun!
Hopefully these Resolutions give you some ideas for the New Year that can put into practice. Helping your kids start safe practices online as early as possible will ensure a more positive online experience for them in the future.
Can you think of anymore online safety resolutions?