Keeping Kids Safe Online
Research shows that technology is an integral part of the lives of young people, even going so far as calling it their “oxygen.”
With as much time as young people spend online, cyber safety is paramount. Cyber bullying, also called online bullying, includes sending threatening messages, displaying private messages without permission, and posting embarrassing video footage and photos to the Internet. According to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, one-third of American teen Internet users have been targets of cyber bullies. While the physical signs that a child is being bullied online are similar to traditional bullying, cyber bullying is quite different in that it is a 24/7 issue.
- Set age-appropriate limits on screen time. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting entertainment-related screen time to no more than two hours a day. Investigate apps and software that can help track and monitor Internet use.
- Model good screen behavior. Parents should limit their own screen time, so their children learn to be selective and healthy in what they consume. Take an active role in children’s media education by co-viewing programs with them and discussing values.
- Monitor online, cell phone, and social media activity. Just as parents would watch their child on a playground or in a mall, it’s necessary to make sure they are safe online and when using a cell phone. Parents should check activity frequently—and randomly. Be sure to ask for computer and phone passwords, and require that you be a “follower” or “friend” on their social media sites. Be aware: some children might have two or three profiles to try and avoid parental supervision.
- Know the territory. Social media has changed the way bullying occurs and has increased its audience. Be sure to stay up-to-date on the latest social media tools and apps, and learn about your child’s “cyber friends,” just like you would for their friends “in real life.”