Teen Security Online: How To Open Up the Issue Of Internet Safety With Your Kids

With the billions of websites online, and more being created every minute, it’s difficult for parents to rely simply on generic parental control systems to make sure their kids don’t access suspicious sites. Often, even with strict settings in place, kids already know how to get around restrictions and can hack into systems or figure out a way to bypass them.

Thus, instead of just putting all your faith in the power of software to filter what your kids see online, it’s better to deal with it at the core. Sit down with them and have them understand the importance of Internet safety so they know how to protect themselves even when you’re not around.

Discussing Online Safety With Teens

Because many teens like going on social media sites, entering online message boards, and engaging with strangers in chat rooms, they are potentially at risk. Worse, the kids don’t really realize the possible amount of danger they are in because they think they are just talking to people who are the same age as them. However, we all know that online predators make it a point to act on the level of children, even pretending to be kids themselves, to earn their trust.

Here are the reasons why that big talk about online safety should be on the table now.

  1. Your child might not know about the dangers.

When kids chat online, all they know is that they are talking with people who share the same interests as them — and that it’s fun. They won’t suspect that the other person might be an adult posing as a child or something just looking to obtain sensitive information about your family. Expect some resistance at first, because your teen will definitely “defend” his or her friends thinking that they’re real. Even if they are, it’s still smart to let them know of the possible risks so they can be extra careful.

  1. It’s your job, as the parent.

As parent, it is your responsibility to protect your child and guide him or her to the right path. It’s your job to lay the rules down at home, so how they use the Internet shouldn’t be any different. While you don’t need to ban online message boards, chat rooms, or social network sites, be sure that your teen is aware of the rules and understand what they are for.

  1. It lets kids be more comfortable with opening up to you.

Talking to your child about Internet safety in a calm manner is likely to make him or her more comfortable discussing about activities online, compared to using a confrontational, authoritative approach. Keeping your communication lines open and welcoming increases the chances of him or her coming to you first whenever they get into trouble on the Internet.

  1. You can teach them what to do in certain situations.

Being able to discuss all possible scenarios that may endanger your teen online makes it easier for him or her to spot them before things go haywire. This part of the talk should include the right way to use the Internet and how to behave in social networking sites and chat groups. Let them know that they should never ever disclose personal information or share photos, as well as to tell you immediately if somebody is harrassing them online. Also instruct your teen to save all exchanges (and not to delete them) until you or the authorities can investigate.

Here are the five things that kids and teens should always remember when they go online. Be sure to include these when you explain online security to them.

  1. Keep your social media acounts private and don’t add people you don’t know. Your kid’s Friends list should be restricted to real-life friends and family only. Even if they’ve been chatting with certain people on the message boards for weeks or months already, that doens’t make them a friend.
  2. Don’t post anything on the Internet that you don’t want the world to see. Whatever’s posted online can be shared millions of times and reach predatory individuals. Even if you’ve already deleted the source, someone somewhere might have saved it or taken a screenshot.
  3. Never give out your contact details and address. According to the Federal Trade Commission, even those little clues like the name of the sports team your child is a member of or what school he or she attends are enough to give predators a chance reach out.
  4. Never agree to meet in person with someone you met on the Internet. Emphasize to your child that he or she doesn’t know who these people really are and predators can easily assume a fake identity.
  5. If it doesn’t look or feel right, tell your parents or a trusted adult. If your teen thinks something is suspicious or if he or she sees something upsetting on the Internet, tell an adult at once. Also report the incident to the website your child is using so the administrator can take it down immediately.

Pick a good time to talk to your teen about his or her online activities. Ranting right away about their use and about the dangers can only escalate into a disagreement and cause your teen to withdraw further away from you. Instead, just calmly ask them during a casual conversation or right after they use the Internet if they know about being safe online and understand what they need to do if they feel they are in danger. This way, you get to provide valuable information while sounding less like an overbearing parent.

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