In the first part of this article on internet safety, we laid out some kid-sized rules that younger children will be able to easily grasp. Let’s continue on to see how we can develop and solidify these concepts further.
Basic rules for kids are a great starting point, but when they’re backed up by support from you, they come to life and let both you and your child play a role in learning to be safe online. With that in mind, let’s list our “Internet Parent Rules” - the companions to each of the Internet Kid Rules!
Internet Parent Rule #1 - Protect Your Child’s Privacy
At the same time we’re teaching our kids to protect their own identities online, it’s our job as parents to be vigilant and know what personal data various apps and services are collecting about our kids. Emerging privacy regulation is requiring companies like Google to more clearly state their privacy practices. Take the time to browse through those privacy policies, and understand what privacy options are available within the apps, computers, smartphones, tablets, and other services your kids use.
Internet Parent Rule #2 - Manage Your Child’s Accounts
Inevitably, your kids will want to sign up for various online accounts to play games, chat with their friends, share pictures and explore. Some of the major services like Google and Microsoft have family management options that let you add your child, monitor their account, limit their online time and configure settings for them. Family management options are a great way for you and your kiddo to learn together about setting limits and being safe. If a family management option isn’t available, it’s a good idea to have a copy of your child’s password so you can check on them periodically and help them use the service responsibly.
Google’s family management details are here.
Microsoft’s family management details are here.
Apple’s family management details are here.
Internet Parent Rule #3 - Use a Password Manager
No one likes having to remember the hundreds of passwords we have for all the sites and services we use. And using one password for everything isn’t a safe practice, for you or your child. Password managers like LastPass, Dashlane, and even Google’s own password manager were created to solve this problem, and they all have free versions. Generate and store your child’s passwords (and yours!) in a password manager. That way, you’ll both have access to them whenever you need them.
Internet Parent Rule #4 - Know Who Your Kids Talk To Online
Make sure you know who your kids are talking to and spending time with while online. It may not always be in a web browser - gaming services like Xbox Live and Playstation Network let users voice chat with each other, and sometimes these gamers are grouped up randomly with each other. Take the time to look into social and privacy settings on the various services your child is using, and set them appropriately. The internet brings other people into your household through email and chat … make sure you know who these people are.
Internet Parent Rule #5 - Handle Your Child’s Pictures Carefully
When we have kids, we naturally like to show them off on social media by posting pictures. It’s a great way to give your family and friends a glimpse into their lives. Remember though that your child’s photo is part of their digital identity online, and it’s easy for pieces of that identity to leak out to places on the web that you (or they) may not want it to be. Check the privacy settings on the social media services you use, and make sure those photos of your kids aren’t “going public” by accident.
Internet Parent Rule #6 - Manage the Apps on Your Child’s Devices
Kids these days have access to technology early on in their lives. A hand-me-down smartphone, a tablet, or the family computer. There’s so many great apps for learning and exploring, but there are also malicious apps that can compromise your child’s account or the device they’re using. Malware is a major cause of privacy and personal data breaches. A great practice is to use a “whitelisting” approach, where you review and approve each app that your child wants to use. iOS and Android give you this capability, and so do the major computer operating systems like Windows and MacOS.
Internet Parent Rule #7 - Check in With Your Child
It’s important to communicate to your kiddo that they can come to you if they stumble across anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsure. It’s equally important for you to take the initiative to check in with them periodically, and see if they have questions about the things they see and hear. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn about their concerns when you sit down and explore the internet together.
Internet Parent Rule #8 - Lead By Example
Security and privacy in our online world is hard. We often have to take conscious steps to be responsible, like reading those privacy policies, checking those security settings, managing passwords efficiently, among other practices. Rather than taking the easy way out and throwing up your hands, involve your child in the learning and management process when it comes to the techniques we’ve covered. When your child sees that you take online privacy seriously, they will follow suit.
I’ve been going through these initial online explorations with my own kids. We’ve got an Apple Family structure all set up, and we’re expanding out to Google Family. Nintendo is in the mix too with our Switch. The kids understand that their devices will enforce time limits per day, and that we’ll need to approve the apps they use. We also have dinner-table discussions about privacy, hackers, passwords, and all that stuff. Even though you may not be a privacy and security nerd like me, the experience of learning about safe internet practices together with your children will be a benefit not only to them, but to you as well.