Tech Safety

Cell Phones

Whether your child will soon have a cell phone or is already burning through minutes, these tips will help you set rules for safer cell phone use.

  • Review cell phone records for any unknown numbers and late night phone calls and texts.
  • Remind your child that texting is viral and anything sent in a text can be easily forwarded and shared.
  • Teach your child never to reveal cell phone numbers or passwords online.
  • Talk to your child about the possible consequences of sending sexually explicit or provocative images or text messages.
  • When shopping for a cell phone for your child, research the security settings that are available.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying, like traditional bullying, can affect the social, emotional, and physical health of a child. Cyberbullying occurs when people use the Internet and other electronic technology to harm other people, often deliberately. Take steps to help your child deal with and respond to cyberbullying.

  • Tell your child not to respond to rude e-mails, messages and comments.
  • Save the evidence, such as e-mail and text messages and take screenshots of comments and images. Also take note of the date and time when the harassment occurs.
  • Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or cell phone provider. Ask them to remove the offensive material from the website.
  • If harassment is via e-mail, social networking sites, Instant Message (IM) or chat rooms, instruct your child to “block” bullies or delete your child’s current account and open a new one.
  • If harassment is via text or phone messages, change the phone number and instruct your child to only share the new number with trustworthy people. Also check out phone features that may allow the number to be blocked.
  • Get your child’s school involved. Learn the school’s policy on cyberbullying and urge administrators to take a stance against all forms of bullying.

E-mail, IM and Chatrooms

Keep your children safe online by becoming familiar with the technology and applications that they use to talk with one another.

  • Know who your child is communicating with online.
  • Open a family e-mail account to share with younger children.
  • Work with your child to brainstorm screen names and e-mail addresses that do not contain information about gender, identity, or location and that avoid being suggestive.
  • Teach your child never to open e-mails from unknown senders and to use settings on IM programs to block messages from people they do not know.
  • Be aware of other ways your child may be going online – like cell phones, laptops, or from friends’ homes and the library.
  • Tell your child not to share passwords with anyone but you to help avoid identity theft and cyberbullying.

File Sharing

It is important to exercise caution and common sense when using computer file-sharing programs. Help your child choose from the many legal options when it comes to obtaining copyrighted materials. For safer file sharing:

  • Access materials through legitimate means only.
  • Set monetary limits for legal purchases of music, movies, and software.
  • Install anti-virus software for added protection.
  • Search your home computer to see if there are file-sharing programs on it already.
  • Do not download anything unless you are certain it is from a trustworthy source.

Gaming

Parental involvement is critical when it comes to helping children games more safely. Take an active interest in the games that your child plays and wants to buy. You can research games’ ratings and content on www.esrb.org, a website is maintained by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. ESRB is a non-profit, self-regulatory body that assigns age and content ratings to thousands of games each year.

  • Know which safety features are available on the gaming equipment that your child uses—a headset may have voice-masking features, for example.
  • Keep gaming consoles in an easy-to-supervise location and be aware of other places where your child may be accessing games.
  • Tell your child never to give out personal information while gaming or agree to meet anyone outside of the game.
  • Teach your child not to respond to anyone who is being rude or bullying while playing.
  • Set rules for how long your child may play, what types of games are appropriate and who else may participate.
  • Have your child check with you before using a credit or debit card online.
  • Check to see if the games your child plays have reporting features or moderators.

Social Networking

Social networking sites can have many benefits for children, such as allowing them to explore new interests and connecting with other peers online with similar interests. Help your children use these sites more safely by going over the following tips and discussion starters.

  • Check your child’s friend lists to see who has access to his or her profile. Make sure your child knows all friends in person.
  • Teach your child to set profiles to private–but be aware that privacy settings do not guarantee complete privacy.
  • Have your child remove any inappropriate content and photos and delete any personal information.
  • Check the profiles of your child’s friends to see if there is revealing information or photos about your child.
  • Report inappropriate or criminal behavior to the appropriate authority. Most sites have a reporting mechanism for non-criminal behavior. Criminal behavior should be reported through law-enforcement agencies.

Webcams

Teach children to think carefully before revealing themselves on video because it is impossible to predict how those videos might be used to embarrass or exploit them. Talk to your children about reporting any uncomfortable situations and reassure them that they are not helpless.

  • Keep the computer and webcam in a public area of your house and strictly supervise your child’s usage. Remember, a lot of laptops come with a webcam built in.
  • Discuss what information is allowed and not allowed to be shared online.
  • Talk about appropriate and inappropriate uses of a webcam.
  • Start a dialogue about the possible consequences of sharing too much personal information or displaying inappropriate behavior on a webcam.
  • Create a plan of action if someone makes an inappropriate solicitation.
  • Emphasize the importance of telling you or another trusted adult if anything happens to make them feel scared or uncomfortable.

Sexting/Inappropriate Content

Before your children use any type of technology, you should talk to them about what content they are allowed to access. Above all, it’s important to open the lines of communication about online material that may make your child feel uncomfortable. Often children are afraid to tell a parent or guardian about something they have seen because they are afraid that their Internet privileges will be taken away. The best solution is to openly discuss the situation before a problem arises.

  • Know where children may have access to the Internet—at school, friends’ houses, community centers, or libraries—and where the computers may not have blocking and filtering mechanisms.
  • Encourage your children to come to you or another trusted adult if he or she encounters inappropriate material.
  • Install blocking, filtering and monitoring software in order to block pop-ups, restrict access to sites with adult content and see which sites your children visit.
  • Discuss your family values with your children, and be clear about what online content aligns with those values.
  • Before buying your child a cell phone, set rules for its use, including what sort of information and images are appropriate to share via text.
  • Talk to your child about the possible social, academic and legal consequences of sexting. They could face humiliation, lose educational opportunities and get in trouble with the law.
  • Encourage your child not to be a bystander or an instigator. If he or she receives a “sext,” discuss why it is important that he or she not forward the image to anyone else.
  • Remind your child that they can talk to you if they receive a nude or questionable picture on their cell phone.
  • Talk to your child’s school about its policies on cell phones, cyberbullying, and sexting.
  • Report any nude or semi-nude images that your child receives to law enforcement.