Cyber Safety: Is technology safe for your child?
As educators and parents it is difficult to monitor the internet practices of our students and children, however we can work diligently to help them make good choices. We can use teachable moments to compare media content and messages to our our values as educators and families. Examples of these types of media content are TV commercials or shows, viewing a website, movie, or discussing the lyrics to a song.
Cyber safety is an important concept that educators and parents can discuss with students and children frequently no matter what grade level they are in. Experts warn that children are most vulnerable to online dangers while in their own home and not at school. While many potential dangers are filtered so students can’t access them at schools, parents sometimes forget that children may have direct access to inappropriate sites at home.
What you can do to keep your child safe:
Install software to filter and block inappropriate content on your home computer.
The Cambridge Isanti School District uses content filters to keep kids safe and to comply with Federal law. Filters can be set to block Internet access completely or block certain sites like pornography, social media, and gaming. Further, filters allow a parent to completely control when access is open/closed to such sites. Without any filtering software at home, a user can get to any site on any device, including a desktop computer.
Some possible filters to consider include OpenDNS, SafeEyes, and NetNanny (Here's a short, two minute instructional video for you describing how easy this is to do with the free OpenDNS), OR if you have a newer computer with Microsoft Windows or Mac Snow Leopard, the software is built right into the operating system- it’s called Parental Controls and there is no need to buy anything else.
Take the time to set up some content filters for your children today. Kids are naturally curious and won't filter for themselves. Viewing portrayals of risky behavior can make it seem "normal" when it is not the norm. Often, the reality of negative consequences is left out, leaving kids with a skewed impression of normal standards of behavior, as well as unresolved questions and emotions about the implications of explicit content that they don't fully grasp.
Other Filters to Consider:
Products are now available that monitor your child's posts and digital footprint/reputation on sites like Facebook and Twitter, such as SafetyWeb and Social Shield.
Turn on the free tools within Google and YouTube to activate stricter filters on web, image, and video searches.
Cell phone providers offer filtering services parents can choose to activate. To learn more, simply Google your service provider with the words "parental controls." You can filter text messages as well as websites your child can access through her/his phone. There are also services you can purchase that will help you filter your child’s phone such as SafeEyes and NetNanny. Some phone companies like Kajeet specifically offer filtered phones for children with a variety of additional control options.
TV cable companies offer filtering services as well. Again, simply Google your provider along with the words "parental controls" to learn how to access these features.
Other Important Parenting Tips:
- Maintain open communication with your child about technology use. Ask to get a tour of the sites your child visits.
- Proactively set guidelines for computer use at your house, as well as when they are with friends. Print off, discuss, and sign a Common Sense Family Media Agreement
- Know your child’s passwords. This enables you to gain access to their e-mail, social networking sites, etc. in case of an emergency.
- Tech 101 Videos: Learn about Teens and Tech, Safe Searching, and more
- Google family members to be aware of your cyber footprint online. Set up a Google Alert for each family member for free.
Anything we do or post online creates a digital record, often called your "Cyber Footprint." Nothing online is totally private, even if you intend it to be. Once digitized, it can be saved, sent and reposted elsewhere.
A good rule of thumb: If you don’t want a parent, teacher, principal, future employer or college admissions office to know something, don’t post it online.
- How Do Social Networks Operate?
While the Internet is an incredible resource with countless educational opportunities, there are also frightening dangers that kids can get involved in or be exposed to online. Pornography is often just a click away, and kids are curious. Social Networking sites like Facebook for teens (Webkinz and Club Penguin for younger students) are a popular way to connect with friends and meet new people, but these sites are mostly unsupervised and may push limits and test boundaries. Watch Social Networking in Plain English to understand how Social Networks operate. Videos on YouTube and similar sites with live web cams allow kids to be creative and share all sorts of content, some of which may be inappropriate or unwise to publish.
- Cyberbullying (threatening or harassing another individual through technology), is a growing concern for today’s youth. It takes many forms, such as forwarding a private email, photo, or text message for others to see, starting a rumor, or sending a threatening or aggressive message, often anonymously. Talk with your child about not partaking in this behavior, and encourage her/him to report it to an adult. Some videos online to help kids understand this include Ad Council Commercials Talent Show (Elementary and Middle School Students) or Kitchen (High School Students), as well as NetSmartz.org’s videos on Broken Friendship(Secondary Students) or You Can’t Take It Back (Secondary Students). ThatsNotCool.com is a good resource about textual harassment and sexting.
More Helpful Internet Safety Resources for Parents:
Cyber Laws and Safety is a site by Jim Adler and Associates law firm. This site provides some great resources for parents as they work to keep their child safe online.
Common Sense Media has great reviews of movies, music, apps, video games, and more. Sign up for their weekly newsletter to stay in the loop of the latest teen tech trends.
How to Manage Your Online Reputation has some great information about what some colleges and/or businesses are using in making decisions in enrollment and hiring.
Essential Teen Internet Safety Guide has many great tips for parents and teens in regards to safe internet practices.
Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online~This guide published by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers parents practical, developmental targeted tips to guide their children in navigating the online world.
Don't Be Hacked or Tracked has 13 great and easy to implement practices.
~This article discusses what college admissions officers are doing to learn more about their applicants as well as provide tips for students to maintain a reputation online that they can be proud of.
iKeepSafe.org “Be A Pro Parent” - The iKeepSafe BEaPRO™~Parent Safety Index report identifies the six core competencies – The 6 Pillars of Digital Citizenship and Wellness – that keep kids safe online in our digitally connected culture. They are: balance, ethics, privacy, reputation, relationships and online security.
McGruff Online Safety for Kids – Online safety interactive
PBS Parenting in an Internet Age – A discussion on parenting in the digital age from a panel of experts.”
Net Smartz - This site has many links to digital topics such as blogging, sexting, cell phones, identity theft, and more. It provides tips for parents and conversation starters.
WiredSafety.org's work falls into five major areas:
- Help and support for victim of cybercrime and harassment
- Advice, Training and Help for law enforcement worldwide on preventing, spotting and investigating cybercrimes
- Education for children, parents, communities, law enforcement and educators
- Information and awareness on all aspects of online safety, privacy, responsible use and security and
- Resources that can be downloaded or printed and used for offline presentations, community events and classroom activities.
Parry Aftab is one of the leading experts, worldwide, on cybercrime, internet privacy and cyber-abuse issues.
Source: Minnetonka K-12 Technology Site