Back-to-School and Internet Safety

August 19, 2011

The phrase back-to-school conjures up thoughts of trying on clothes to see what fits and what doesn’t, and purchasing the notebooks, pens, and other paraphernalia your student needs for the year ahead.

However, new to most parents is the realization that an Internet safety checkup also falls into this seasonal rhythm.

The beginning of school is an excellent time to review your current Internet safety guidelines and see if they are still a good fit for your family and your child. It may be time to expand online privileges and reinforce the added responsibilities and expectations that come with age and with any new devices your child may be using.

Here is a checklist for this change of season:

  1. Begin by reviewing your student’s current privileges and responsibilities. Ideally, kids should take on new privileges and responsibilities each year so they can learn to become more responsible, and eventually grow into independent adults. Is it time to increase the level of access you provide to them?
  2. Reinforce the basics. Internet Safety has four basic principles – protect yourself, respect the safety of others, be kind, and act responsibly by following family rules and the terms and conditions set by services.
  3. Address new areas of potential risk – For example, if your child is starting to use social networking, it’s time to have a discussion about which service to use, what information he or she should share, what privacy settings should be in place, and so on.
  4. Review your school’s Internet usage guidelines. Permission slips for using the Internet in school are sent home during the first week of school. These require parents and students to agree to the school’s guidelines and they provide another great opportunity to address acceptable online usage and actions.
  5. Talk to each child, tween, and teen every year about Cyberbullying. Cyberbullying, online harassment, and cyber stalking are all terms for ways in which those who wish to hurt others, for whatever reason, use online tools to do so. This form of bullying is incredibly damaging both to those who are victims, and to the bullies themselves. It is critical that you establish an environment that makes your children feel safe in coming to you to report any problems.

Linda

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Back-to-School and Internet Safety

August 25, 2010

The phrase back-to-school conjures up thoughts of trying on clothes to see what fits and what doesn’t, and purchasing the notebooks, pens, and other paraphernalia your student needs for the year ahead.

However, new to most parents is the realization that an Internet safety checkup also falls into this seasonal rhythm.

The beginning of school is an excellent time to review your current Internet safety guidelines and see if they are still a good fit for your family and your child. It may be time to expand online privileges and reinforce the added responsibilities and expectations that come with age and with any new devices your child may be using.

Here is a checklist for this change of season:

  1. Begin by reviewing your student’s current privileges and responsibilities. Ideally, kids should take on new privileges and responsibilities each year so they can learn to become more responsible, and eventually grow into independent adults. Is it time to increase the level of access you provide to them?
  2. Reinforce the basics. Internet Safety has three basic principles – protect yourself, respect the safety of others, and act responsibly by following family rules and the terms and conditions set by services.
  3. Address new areas of potential risk – For example, if your child is starting to use social networking, it’s time to have a discussion about which service to use, what information he or she should share, what privacy settings should be in place, and so on. .
  4. Review your school’s Internet usage guidelines. Permission slips for using the Internet in school are sent home during the first week of school. These require parents and students to agree to the school’s guidelines and they provide another great opportunity to address acceptable online usage and actions.
  5. Talk to each child, tween, and teen every year about Cyberbullying and Cyberharassment. Cyberbullying, online harassment, and cyber stalking are all terms for ways in which those who wish to hurt others, for whatever reason, use online tools to do so. This form of bullying is incredibly damaging both to those who are victims, and to the bullies themselves. It is critical that you establish an environment that makes your children feel safe in coming to you to report any problems.

Back-to-School Shopping with Internet Safety In Mind

August 23, 2010

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?

Laptops:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
  4. 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.

Cell Phones:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. Understand how to track phone usage problems.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.

Linda