From the time they are babies, your kids see you checking Facebook from your phone, posting photos to Instagram on your tablet and finding great recipes on Pinterest from your laptop. It’s only natural that they want to be part of the great online world of social media. But to make sure your kids are properly prepared for the digital world, check out the following tips:
Start Talking to Them Early
You don’t have to wait until your kids are opinionated tweens to discuss what to do and not to do online. OnGuardOnline.gov advises that as soon as your kiddo starts to use a tablet or computer to play games or text grandma is the time to start talking about online safety and appropriate behavior.
Communicate Your Values Often
Online safety is not a topic that can be covered in a quick chat over ice cream cones. Instead, plan on talking about your rules, values and concerns over the course of many talks. Let your kids know that you will listen to them and their feelings about online activity without judging them. Look for opportunities to bring up the topic naturally, too. For example, if you are watching a show together where one of the young characters opens up a social media account without her parents knowing, you can talk to your children about the character’s online safety.
Over the course of several conversations, discuss important and heavy issues, including inappropriate contact, cyber bullying and identity theft. Explain that the sad reality is that not everyone online is nice. You also should mention what is appropriate for them to see and do online as well as what they need to avoid. For instance, if they are watching a video that contains foul language, they should exit out of it immediately.
Teach Them About Malware
In addition to talking about unsavory people who lurk online, it’s important to go over digital attackers, such as viruses, worms, spyware and Trojan Horses. LifeLock explains that a great way to combat malware is by installing antivirus software and frequently updating applications and operating system software.
Because kids are are more prone to opening attachments from unknown sources that promise a free game upgrade or funny video, you need to explain that doing so may result in a virus attacking their computer. Tell them that they should never open any attachment without asking you first and that they need to exit out of all pop-up ads. Show them what the antivirus software alerts look like, and ask them to tell you when they show up, so you can check them out together.
Discuss Appropriate Behavior
Before you let your child open his or her first social media account, have a serious talk about kind and appropriate behavior. The Guardian suggests telling your kids that if they wouldn’t do something in person, they shouldn’t do it online, such as saying something mean to an acquaintance from school. Tell your tweens that they should imagine their beloved grandma is standing right behind them watching what they are doing on social media, and if she is happy with what they are posting or watching, then it’s okay. Also, it’s important to teach your kids about the permanence of the Internet and how all posts (even if they are deleted) remain in the digital world forever.