The back-to-school shopping list these days often includes laptops and cell phones. The instant access and the convenience that laptops and cell phones afford make them ideal for studying, socializing, and coordinating schedules. By instituting a few precautions, your student can enjoy all the benefits of Internet connectivity and make the most of a great school year.
When choosing devices there are three Internet safety considerations to keep in mind: 1) What safety protections do the devices have in place, and what do you need to add? 2) Does the device enable features that you don’t find age appropriate? If so, how do you turn off or minimize these features?
- Don’t skimp on security and safety software.Install all the safety tools your child needs, such as antivirus, anti-spyware, a firewall, and age appropriate filtering tools. Remember that installing these tools is not enough – you must update security and safety software regularly to protect against new threats. Select auto-update settings to ensure the highest level of protection.
- Leverage the safety settings within the services. Every service should have settings that allow you to limit exposure to others or to types of content.
- Protect your student’s laptop from theft. Laptop theft comes in two forms – theft of the information on the laptop, and theft of the laptop itself.
- To protect against information theft help your child establish a strong login password and teach him or her to log-off (password protect) the laptop whenever the laptop is left on its own.
- Laptops are easy to steal if left unattended for even a moment. Consider buying a laptop cable lock, so your child can physically lock it to something such as a desk. These locks typically cost between $15 and $35 dollars – far less than a replacement laptop.
- Review the laptop’s features for safety. Of all laptop features, webcams are particularly problematic. Children often show poor judgment about the live video images they share. If the laptop you purchase has a webcam, set specific guidelines about how and when it can be used.
- Most cell phones today are small computers. In the same way you evaluate the online services and features your child can access on computers, you need to understand the phone’s features and the Internet services can their phone can access.
- Ensure that there are safeguards in place to protect your child. Does the phone have content filters? Can features be turned off? What additional safeguards does the carrier provide? (Don’t be shy about asking and demanding answers).
- Choose between a prepaid versus a monthly plan. Many parents like the financial accountability that a prepaid plan provides for their teens, however these plans usually don’t provide you with information about your teen’s calling activity like monthly plans do.
- Understand how to track phone usage problems.
- If your student is overly tired in the mornings or is sneaking out at night, check the times of day that calls and text messages are occurring (monthly cell phone bills provide this information). If there is a problem, solve it by taking charge of the phone at bedtime and returning it in the morning.
- Check for inappropriate use during school hours: when texting and cheating can be issues. Address these directly by establishing clear consequences.
With your checklist complete, your student positioned for a great online year.