Teaching Internet Safety to Children: 5 Rules Every Parent Should Know
The internet has become an integral part of our modern world, and children are no exception. With the constant connectivity, parents have come to terms with the fact that their children have access to the internet, whether they want it or not. Parents cannot keep their children away from the web, but they can prepare them for the reality of the online world. The key is to teach children internet safety. As a parent, it is crucial to help them understand how to safely navigate the web without putting their safety or their family at risk. Here are the five most important internet rules that every parent should teach their children:
1. Everything Stays on the Internet Forever
One of the most crucial lessons to teach children is that everything they post on the internet stays there forever. Even if you delete something you posted, chances are that it is still somewhere on the internet. Website servers maintain a copy of the content you posted, and multiple archiving programs keep different versions of websites to preserve them. This means that any information, photos, or posts that children share on social media or other websites may become permanently associated with them and harm their future education and job opportunities. Children need to understand the importance of being mindful of what they post online.
2. Use Privacy Settings Liberally
Children should learn about privacy settings on social media sites and how to control and maximize them whenever possible. Many social media platforms have options to post privately or to a controlled audience. However, children may not realize that their accounts are unlocked and viewable to even users they’ve blocked. Instagram has a geolocation tagging feature that can pin the location of a photo down to the exact address, often revealing someone’s precise home location unintentionally. Parents should review social media privacy settings with their kids, making sure nothing they post is publicly viewable, including their location.
3. Identify Obvious Signs of Scams and Viruses
The internet is filled with scams, viruses, and malware. It can be challenging to identify some of them, but there are some classic types of scams that children should be prepared to face, including emails claiming to be from an organization or business. They should learn to double-check a URL before logging into a website to ensure they’re not entering their login info into a scam website. They should also learn to avoid clicking on suspicious links that may download something onto a computer unintentionally and how to install and use malware protection.
4. Internet Behavior Has Real-Life Consequences
Children should learn, along with how to protect themselves, how to conduct themselves online. Many children may unintentionally find themselves in toxic internet communities that encourage illegal behavior or gain access to the so-called dark web, where such activity goes unchecked. Internet harassment, trolling, doxxing, and scamming have serious real-life consequences, up to and including federal prison charges depending on the severity. Children should learn to apply the same rules of using manners and treating people with respect during their online interactions. They can recognize signs of illegal behavior online as well.
5. Recognize and Report Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is a growing problem that children face more and more frequently. Like real-life bullying, it has serious consequences on their emotional development and self-esteem. It can feel exceptionally worse, actually, because children feel like they can’t get away from it wherever they go. Dozens of cases of teen and child suicide associated with cyberbullying have been reported in recent years. Children should know where they can turn to report cyberbullying, and that should include their parents, as well as when to report it.
Teaching children how to protect themselves online should be an essential skill that parents should impart. It helps children develop mindfulness and critical thinking skills to keep themselves safe against the dangers of the online world. Parents must educate their children on internet safety to ensure that they grow up to be responsible digital citizens.