The school year will be ending this month for most kids and parents may be worried about the increase in free time and decrease in supervision their kids will start to have, especially when spending time online. Whether kids are staying up late and sleeping in, or are enrolled in camps, lessons or other organized activities throughout the summer, they will probably have some extra – and less regulated – time to spend online. Kids also might be more likely to share details of vacations or other summer plans that could seriously compromise online privacy. Parents need to set up guidelines and have some kind of dialogue in place to ensure that kids have a productive and healthy summer but are also able to benefit from the positive aspects of social networks and other online activities.
Below are some suggestions for a few guidelines and rules for how to have a safe and fun summer, both on- and offline:
- Establish an “unplugged” part of each day – set aside a certain time of the day to do something with your kids without a computer, TV, phone or any other kind of connected device. Whether it’s spending time at a park in the morning, going to a pool in the afternoon, or reading a book at night, stick to that timeframe every day and it may make your kids want to spend other parts of the day offline too!
- Keep the family computer in a common area – this will ensure that when your kids are spending time online, you can join in every so often to find fun ideas for activities to do together. Check out sites that recommend daily outings or different crafts and DIY projects for a busy and productive summer.
- Help set up bookmarks – kids are certainly online savvy these days, and can be very curious about what’s out there on the Internet. To ensure they focus on sites that they should be on – and to help them avoid wandering to any inappropriate online content – help your kids set up bookmarks for kid-friendly and age-appropriate sites that you’ve approved and that they are free to browse on their own.
- Know what their plans are – if your kids are old enough to spend time away from home with their friends, always know where they’ll be and when. Have guidelines for when they should get in touch with you, and make sure they let you know if any plans change for some reason.
- Discourage “checking-in” – while apps like Facebook Places and Foursquare allow easy ways to check-in at certain locations, it can also result in some oversharing that could affect online reputation and privacy. If your kids have smartphones, encourage them to simply enjoy their time wherever they are, rather than getting on their phones immediately and informing people of their whereabouts.
- Keep vacation details private – more and more people are posting details of vacation plans online and burglars actually troll the Internet to find out when people will be away. Lead by example and keep any summer vacation plans offline – and hopefully your kids will too.
- Take a break on vacation – use vacation time for just that – vacation. If you’re not constantly checking your phone for emails or messages, your kids will be less likely to do so as well. Enjoy time spent away from home and your kids won’t feel like they’re missing out on anything online either.
- Cyberbullying doesn’t end with the school year – don’t assume that cyberbullying takes a summer vacation. If you’re worried about your kids’ online interactions – whether they act like a bully or are a victim of online harassment – keep an eye out even during the summer. When kids are less likely to see their peers because they’re no longer in school, there may be even more online bullying taking place.
Do you have any other suggestions for online safety during summer vacation?