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For some adults, the online world is a wilderness of uncharted territory. Unfortunately, what you don’t know can hurt you. It can also hurt your children. Now more than ever, it’s crucial for adults to teach kids the major tenets of online safety. Start with these five basics.
1. Get Creative With Passwords
Passwords can be difficult to remember, and it’s tempting to slap down something simple such as a name or birth date when prompted to create a new one. However, it pays in the long run to come up with something less predictable. Teach your kids to create unusual passwords. Acronyms, song lyric snippets, and nonsense words are all excellent choices.
You’ve certainly heard this before: Use long, strong passwords for all of your accounts. Think “passphrase” rather than “password.” How about: I eat 3 roses for breakfast which becomes iE3roses4B. You can use a password manager to remember long, nonsensical passwords or to generate them for you.
2. Leave No Trace: Log Out
When a person logs out of an online session, he leaves no trace of his activity. However, if he forgets to log out, the next user could theoretically gain access to social media accounts, bank accounts, email accounts, and other sensitive information. Teach your kids to log out after each online session when using a computer that isn’t their own.
3. Read Social Media’s Fine Print
4. Stand Up to Cyber Bullies
Unfortunately, cyberbullying has led to tragedy for a number young people. Teach your kids to stand up to cyber bullies just as they would to real life ones. Kids who witness online bullying should report it to an adult right away. Not reporting a bullying incident could actually aggravate the situation. Kids can protect themselves from online bullies by staying vigilant, keeping passwords private, refraining from posting sensitive photos and pictures, and behaving in a polite manner online.
5. Think Before Posting
“Think before you post.” This all-important rule applies equally to photographic and textual posts. Teach your kids that once something has been posted online, it will never completely disappear. Privacy settings offer a thin veil of protection, but hackers can easily maneuver around them. Once an image or text is shared by one person, it could theoretically be seen and shared by billions of viewers.
Given the popularity of sharing sites like Facebook and Instagram, it’s unrealistic to expect all kids to refrain from participating. As a parent, you may not be able to prevent your child from sharing online, but you can teach him or her to share safely. Kids who post potentially sensitive text and photos should frequently review their friend lists and privacy settings to make sure they’re safeguarding themselves.
Teaching your kids about online safety is not necessarily as intuitive as teaching them about well-known evils such as stranger-danger and drugs. Often, parents find themselves learning the tenets of online safety right along with their kids. That’s okay, as long as you stay vigilant, continue learning, and maintain an open mind.