As a parent, would you give your teen the keys to the family car and assume that they could figure out how to drive on their own? Of course not! Instead, you would sign them up for classes, allow them to practice under your supervision and allow them more responsibility behind the wheel as they are able to prove that they are making good choices when they are behind the wheel.
Just like a family car, a family computer is a tool that requires limits, supervision and knowledge in order for all of the users to make good decisions while online. When used correctly, the Internet can be a wonderful tool to learn about the world that surrounds us.
Take time to read the Internet safety information we have provided as a way to begin conversations about Internet safety in your own home
Online Safety Tips
- Talk to your parents about the internet. Learn together! Sites like netsmartz.org are wonderful places to start.
- Be kind. Don't post things online that are mean or will hurt other people. Don't respond to people using the internet to be mean or rude, but do talk to a parent or trusted adult.
- If you see messages or pictures that give you an "uh-oh" feeling, tell a trusted adult right away.
- Don't give out personal or emotionally private information online. If you would feel uncomfortable seeing what you are typing or posting on a billboard, don't put it on the information highway.
- Remember that you are responsible for your online footprint. Things that you post today can impact your future academic, personal or professional life.
- Listen to your gut instinct. If something seems too good to be true, it may be just that. Don't agree to meet people from online in the real world without your parents' involvement and permission.
- Do your part to create safe online experiences for others by not sending or forwarding along disturbing, harassing or provocative emails. If you are on the receiving end of cyberbullying, do not respond. Instead, report the situation to an adult who can help. This kind of behavior is not only vicious, it can also be illegal.
- Adults who have your best intentions in mind want to be a mentor and not a significant other. If an adult is attempting to start a romantic relationship with you, online or in real life, leave the situation. Follow up by talking to your parent or another mentor about what happened.
For Parents and Adults
- The Internet isn't all bad. Even though online threats can feel overwhelming, remember that being an involved parent can be a huge protective factor in helping to keep your children safe online. Keep the computer in a public room with well understood expectations and guidelines for your family. Consider using filtering or blocking software to help reduce inappropriate online messages or pictures. But filters can never be trusted to catch all inappropriate material. Parental involvement is essential to keeping kids safe online.
- Sit down with your child or teen and learn together. Seeing your youth's online experience from their perspective helps you to understand how they interact with others online. You should have the email addresses, screen names and passwords for your children's online accounts. If you have given permission for your teen to use a social networking site, sit down with them for periodic checks of their page and friend lists.
- Good communication is key – at any age. Younger children may stumble upon unwanted pictures while teens are at higher risk and are more likely to get involved in chat room discussions, receive solicitations and/or have issues with cyberbullying. If you find out your child or teen has encountered something inappropriate while on the Web, discuss it with them and establish boundaries. Show them the best way to react to an unwanted situation, which may include closing out of a site and informing a parent of what they saw or found.
- Report illegal online behavior. Let your child know that their safety is important to you both online and in the real world. Just as you would report a real world danger to the police, use the Cybertipline at (800) 843-5678 to report online threats to your children.