The end of the school year brings an abundance of leisure time for many children. For busy parents, it can be difficult to closely supervise their kids as they roam the Internet where danger can lurk on a variety of websites. In an effort to help parents protect their children online, Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern North Carolina (BBB) offers tips to avoid the most prevalent risks that children may encounter online.
BBB recommends talking to your children about their online presence. It is vital that there be open communication between you and your child — communication that goes both ways. Also, take the time to try out their favorite apps and online services so you can assess whether there is a risk involved with them.
BBB offers information on the most prevalent risks that children may encounter online:
Bullying and harassment - This is most likely to occur through social networking sites, or through email or text messages. It’s important to listen to your children and encourage them to discuss such incidents. The online safety website SafeKids.com has a page of resources to help you deal with cyberbullying.
Reputation-harming online posts – A lot of children do not understand that “online is forever.” It is important to inform children that posts can haunt them at some point in the future and may be saved by someone, even after it has been deleted. Be sure your kids understand this, especially as it applies to photographs. Take the time to use a search engine to check up on what has been posted by or about your children.
Phishing attempts and identity theft - Help your children understand that emails requesting passwords and usernames may be fake, even though they look legitimate. They should never click on links in such emails. Explain to them that passwords should be shared with no one except you, and make sure your devices’ operating systems and security softwares are kept up-to-date.
Inappropriate content - Children can easily stumble upon material that is inappropriate. SafeKids.com has resources for parents who discover that their children have been viewing inappropriate content online.
Online stalkers/predators - Though such incidents often make newspaper headlines, the risk of a child or teen being harmed by someone they met online is considered to be low. Nevertheless, common-sense rules always apply. Any communication your child has with an unknown person online, that veers into inappropriate subjects, should be ended at once and reported to you.
Parents should also review privacy protection rules with their children. Teach your children that they should never give out personal information (including their name, home address, telephone number, age, race, school name or location, or friends' names) or use a credit card online without your permission. Look into software or online services that filter out offensive materials and sites. Many Internet Service Providers and commercial online services offer site blocking, restrictions on incoming e-mail, and children's accounts that access specific services.