Today's computer technology has made it super easy for families to connect, browse, watch, listen, and play together. From having a video call with a loved one halfway around the world, to reserving books at the local library, this technology can enrich our lives. The downside though, is that it's also easier for our families to be exposed to a wide range of online threats.
Threats such as viruses and malware can be dealt with by using up-to-date antivirus software. Others, like scam artists, online predators, and cyber-bullies, require us to be more cautious about what information we share online. In addition, parents often have concerns about the content their kids have access to, or any app purchases they make while playing games or watching streaming videos.
With more households going online, and more children having phones or tablets of their own, it's more important than ever to learn how to protect our families from the dangers of the web. Here are some useful tips to discuss with your family and resources you can use to help keep your family safe.
1. Know the lingo
From cyberbullying, phishing sites, and pirated content, to the latest apps like Snapchat, Instagram, and Spotify, there’s a lot for a parent to keep up with. Keeping up with the latest trends and technology will help you keep your family safe, and prepared for when your kids aren’t sure how to handle an uncomfortable or risky situation online.
2. Establish internet security rules for your household
A guideline for internet use in your family will help make it clear what information is not allowed to be shared, to set time limits, and what to do when something goes wrong. See the resources section below for an example you can use to make your own rules.
3. Talk with your children about the internet
Most kids these days have never known life without the web, and it seems to be here to stay. Considering this, it’s important for parents to encourage open discussion about the benefits and risks associated with the internet. You can use this as an opportunity to find out what their favorite websites are, what games they like to play, and who they are talking to online.
4. Talk to other parents about the internet
Part of staying informed about the internet and what kids are up to online should be talking about the web with other parents. There may be a certain game, app, or website your child’s friends may be using, and other parents might be a good resource for sharing information and advice.
5. Protect your home network and devices
Make sure your desktop, laptop, tablets and phones are secured with strong passwords and up-to-date antivirus software. This will help keep your personal information, email and text messages private and reduce the risk of identity theft and other cyber-crimes. In addition, always use the latest version of your preferred browser, and be sure to change the default password for your home network’s router.
6. Enable parental controls on all connected devices
Both Android and Apple devices allow parents to set some restrictions on app access, purchases, age-appropriate content and more. Streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video let you specify which rating level is allowed to be streamed on the account or device. For desktop and laptop computers, there are software solutions that allow you to restrict, and even monitor internet usage.
7. Keep offline activities and face-to-face time a priority
While web technology has allowed families to connect with each other and share experiences like never before, it’s important to find a balance between online and offline activities. There are a number of studies that suggest too much time online can negatively impact communication, attention span and emotional health, especially for young children. Disconnecting to spend quality time together, or encouraging kids to read or play outside, will go a long way toward maintaining a healthy balance between our digital lives and our real lives.
Cyber Security Resources:
Internet Safety Gameplan – Sample internet rules you can use to make your own
Common Sense Media – Parent’s reviews and ratings for apps, movies & more
Kids.gov – Online safety info from the official U.S. government’s portal for kids
NetLingo.com – Web jargon definitions, chat acronyms, smileys, software & more
OpenDNS – Block adult content & harmful sites across your whole home network
K9 Web Protection – Parental control software for PC, Mac, and mobile devices
SafeEyes – Parental control software for PC & Mac
StaySafeOnline.org – How to secure your home network & general information
NetSafe.org – How to set parental controls on mobile phones & tablets
 Johnson, C. (2014, Aug. 29). Face time vs screen time: The technological impact of communication - http://national.deseretnews.com/article/2235/face-time-vs-screen-time-the-technological-impact-on-communication.html