Start the conversation. This is the age children start to become more withdrawn and look for greater privacy, so it is even more important that you open up a line of communication with your child. Sit with them and ask, “Show me what you like to do while you are online?” Kids this age are incredibly tech-savvy and have already discussed many cybersafety lessons, but make sure you ask (and they have some answers!) to questions like:
· What do you consider personal information?
· What could you do to be safer online?
· What would you do if anyone online asked to meet you face-to-face?
· Who do you feel that you could talk to if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation?
Continue the dialogue. Don’t be lulled into thinking that a few good conversations will be enough to keep your child safe online. Continual check-ins and monitoring is absolutely necessary. We’ve all heard the common rule of “keep the computer in a high-traffic area of the home.” This is a great starting point, but with all of the mobile devices accessible these days, it is not always an easy rule to enforce. Instead let your teen know that their Internet activity is not private. Make sure they know that there are ways to see their communications (texts, direct messaging, emails), the websites they visit, and which apps they are using, and that you will be monitoring their activity. And then do it. Insist that you have all passwords, passcodes, and access to any device your child may be using, so you can do an occasional check-in. Stress to your child that this isn’t a trust factor or that you don’t value their privacy, but as their parent or guardian you have the responsibility to keep them safe, and therefore the right to be a little nosy.
Use parent accounts to monitor student accounts. The easiest way to monitor online activity is to use a family account where each member has their own account, but the children’s accounts “live under” the parental account. Then, whenever your child would like to download an app or sign up for an online account, a request is sent to your email and must be approved by you before they can continue. These accounts also allow you to set up parental controls on web browsers as well, limiting access to only websites you allow. This is an easy way to see what sites and apps your child is using, and you might find a few new sites to visit as well.
* For instance, if your digital world is mostly on the Apple platform, you can use iCloud Family Sharing for your family accounts.
* If you are Windows-based family with Windows 10 you have a similar Family Sharing abilities across your PCs and laptops.
* If you have Android-based devices, unfortunately there isn’t an easy family sharing application yet. However, if your child has a ChromeBook there is a Supervised User Account that you can set-up which will allow you to monitor and control access to websites and apps.
These tips, and a few ground rules found below, should get you and your child started down the path (together!) towards safer internet experiences.
Top Ten Internet Safety Rules That Every Middle School Student Should Follow
(Written by a middle school student, for middle school students!)
1. You should never give out personal information like your name, phone number, or address.
2. Never talk to anyone who has made you feel scared or uncomfortable.
4. Always tell your parents if a person online makes you feel threatened or uncomfortable.
5. Never go to any websites that could be inappropriate or contain non-age appropriate content.
6. Don’t fall for ad traps. If an ad says you can win a free iPad it is probably a trick to get personal info or install a virus into your computer.
7. Don’t put anything on the Internet you aren’t ok with everyone who ever uses the internet seeing.
8. Never give out a password over the Internet. People can use it, change things, and gain your personal information you don’t want anybody to know.
9. Be careful of what you put on the Internet. Once you put it up people can copy it, read it and even alter it. People can even use what you said to find out where you are and even break into your house when they know you’re not home.
10. Always ask your parents before downloading an application. It could be a virus.
What do you do to stay involved in your teen’s online life? Comment in the field below!
Next up: Part II – How to Monitor Your Teen’s Social Media Madness
Carrie Voris has a Communications degree from the University of Michigan and spent most of her professional career as a Web Designer and Creative Strategist for various tech companies, including an online learning company, in the Silicon Valley. She has been married for over 20 years to the greatest technology geek - making her a tech nerd by default. These days she can be found raising her two girls in their San Gabriel home that is powered by all things Apple, and helping to bring as much technology to their schools as possible.