Now that kids are heading back to school, it’s important for parents to understand the online safety and privacy issues that might arise during this busy time of year. A new school year brings new friends and new assignments. Both of these are likely to make kids spend more time online, whether they are communicating with peers on social networks or using new sites (that are potentially risky or dangerous) to work on projects and assignments.
Because kids’ online use might rapidly increase in the coming months, it’s important for parents to be aware of tips that can help handle potential online safety issues.
Know who new friends are
Kids can be busy meeting new classmates and peers during the first few weeks of school, but parents might not initially know who these new kids are. Be aware of who your kids are friends with, both on- and offline, especially if you have concerns about them being subject to cyberbullying or online predators. Another way of finding out who your kids have been communicating with is to check their mobile phones for incoming and outgoing calls and text messages.
Emphasize the importance of managing online reputation
Remind your kids not to post anything they wouldn’t want teachers, other family members, future employers or university admissions offers to see. This is especially important for older teens applying to jobs or schools, when getting caught up in the excitement of a new school year might make them accidentally post something they will later regret because of the negative effects it has on their reputation. Having a tool like Avira SocialShield would help you monitor your kids’ behavior online.
Warn about engaging in gossip
It’s very common for teens to participate in gossip online, which can therefore contribute negatively to their online reputation. It’s easy for rumors to start or for jokes to go too far, especially online where kids are less able to defend themselves or put a stop to content that could go viral. These kinds of posts and conversations can spread like wildfire among teens, especially when they have such immediate access to online forms of communication.
Be aware of changes in behaviors or habits
Your kids might be acting differently – busier, more studious, more distracted – now that they’ve begun a new school year. But if there are serious changes in moods or behaviors, this could be a warning sign something happening online that you should know about. They might be getting cyberbullied or harassed; or they might have posted something inappropriate online themselves that they’re worried will affect them offline. They might be preoccupied with new hobbies and start doing other activities while they are online. Having a look at their browser’s history, emails and posts would give you more peace of mind. Did you know that by simply pressing Ctrl-H on most browsers will open the browsing history ?
Limit time online
Kids might try to use the excuse that they need the computer more for schoolwork now, but make sure that they spend time offline as well focusing on academics and other activities. Kids could spend hours online every night if they are able to. But encourage time away from the computer for a more balanced schedule when getting back into the new school year.
Using the Avira Internet Security’s Child Protection feature, you can actually control which categories of websites your kids are allowed to visit and how much time are they allowed to spend online.