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Keeping Teens Safe in a Digital World

10/14/2016 01:24 pm ET
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Understanding the digital world is one of the most important things parents can do. After all, that’s where they live 24/7. Whether they’re on a computer, tablet or smartphone, parents must be computer literate, know how to work devices, be Web savvy and know all of the social media sites, apps and what kids and teens do on these sites.

Know what sites are age-appropriate: Kids as young as three years-old know how to maneuver their parent’s phone and tablets. Age 8 is usually when kids get digitally involved. By age 10 they’ve progressed to multi-player games and sharing digital creations and videos on YouTube

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a law that protects your child online. And social networks do not allow children under the age of 13 to legally join.

Younger children: Install parental controls. Set up a family account and make sure other accounts are password-protected so that younger children can’t access.

Establish what your children can and can’t do online, how much time they can spend online, the sites they can visit and what information they can share.

Computers should be in an open area like the kitchen or family room so you can keep an eye on how kids are using the internet.

Tweens: Set boundaries with them and discuss where they can use portable devices and for how long, before they get used to becoming digitally independent. Encourage your child to talk to you about how they use the internet. Talk about things they might find on the web. The perfect time to start the conversation is when they get a new device. Have these talks often!

Discuss the pros and cons of social networking before they join any sites. Let them know that anything they upload, email or post stays online forever!

Teens: Keep the dialogue ongoing! Talk to your teens about what they do online. Don’t stop talking. It’s important they know you’re interested and involved.

Bringing up issues like sexting, pornography and cyberbullying may make you uncomfortable but they are necessary to discuss and often!

Information must be kept private. Kids can set privacy settings on most social networking.

Discuss online reputations. What goes on the Internet stays on the Internet. Let them know that posting anything embarrassing or racy will be seen by teachers, college admissions officers and future employers. It’s imperative that they create a positive digital footprint. Use safe settings on all mobile devices.

Show you trust them! Don’t be judgmental if your teen has a problem or wants to discuss something that makes them feel uncomfortable online. If they think you’ll take away their devices or internet access they won’t come to you. Educate teens about being digitally responsible. If they wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, they shouldn’t say it online.

Know what your child’s online reputation is by setting up a Google alert in your child’s name.

Teach kids of all ages not to respond to rude comments. Save evidence, print out comments and images. Document dates and time when the harassment occurs. Report to your Internet Service or mobile provider and ask them to remove the pages. If harassed via text messages, change the phone number and have your child share the new number with trusted friends.

The most important thing you can do as a parent is to be digitally savvy to keep your children digitally safe!

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