It can be tough raising kids in a digital environment. Many of them use the Internet effortlessly, and easily adapt to new devices that connect to it. For many of us, these tools have become a routine part of our children’s lives, as they use them to chat, surf, post, play and learn. The Internet has become one of the most powerful tools they have to connect with friends and make new ones. Many kids, however, don’t fully understand the impact that some online activities may have on their privacy. Below are 12 tips to help you limit the risks to your children’s personal information, while allowing them to make the most of their time online.
1. Talk to your kids
It’s important to know the Internet spaces your kids frequent and the devices they use to go online, to help you understand the nature of personal information they may be sharing.
2. Try it out
It’s not enough to know what online spaces and devices your kids are using, it’s understanding the nature of the personal information they are sharing. You should know how they are using and experiencing them.
3. Keep up with the technology
Many mobile devices, like smart phones, tablets and gaming consoles, can connect to the web and have video cameras. It’s important to know what kind of device your child has, so that you know whether they are merely playing a game, or if they are using the Internet and sharing personal information.
4. Make restricting privacy settings a habit
5. Make password protection a priority
Children need to understand that their online information will be better protected if they use passwords. They should use different strong (8 characters or more & variety of letters and/or numbers) passwords for different sites, change them regularly, and never share them with anyone.
6. Emphasize the importance of protecting mobile devices
First thing anyone should do with a new mobile device is activate the password protection. Talk to your kids about this, and the importance of protecting the device itself because it may contain their personal information.
7. Remind your kids that what they post on the internet is not always private
Your kids should understand that once they post content online, they no longer have control over it. It can be forwarded, copied and pasted, manipulated, printed out or saved and it can remain online in some form, potentially forever.
8. Teach your kids to think before they click
It takes only seconds to snap a photo and post it on the Internet, or to post a comment. It can be nearly impossible to permanently delete that comment or photo once it’s posted. They should only post things that they would be comfortable with the whole world seeing.
9. Stress the importance of knowing your real friends
Kids need to know that, online, they can’t be 100% sure of who they’re talking to, so they should never accept friend requests from people they don’t know in real life. Remind your kids that a friend-of-a-friend of a real-life friend is really just a stranger.
10. Teach your kids that their personal information is valuable
Kids need to know that many people and companies want their personal information to sell or market things to them in the future. Review the personal information with your kids that they often need to surrender in order to play online games, fill out an online survey or quiz, join virtual worlds or even just shop online. Discuss potential ways to limit that information.
11. Let your kids know that you are there if they make a privacy mistake
Stay calm if your child makes a mistake, like posting something they shouldn’t have. Help them remove the post, where possible and talk with them about how they can avoid a similar mistake in the future. If you “freak out” or deny access to them, they may not come to you for help when the really need it in future.
12. Set a good example
Remember, those cute potty training or bathing photos of your own child that you are tempted to post can also be copied and shared, and remain online forever! Just as you would respect your friends when posting photos or other items that contain personal information, respect your kids’ personal information too. Set a good example and be a role model for your kids to look to if they’re wondering what kind of information is okay to post.
For more information on talking to your kids about how their use of technology can affect privacy, visit Presentation Packages for Parents and Teachers.
You can also find more information relating to this topic by visiting the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s website.