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Essential Things to Teach Children (and yourself) about Using the Internet


Essential Things to Teach Children (and yourself) about Using the Internet.

   With social media and internet use being at an all-time high, now is the time to consider giving yourself and your kids some security and privacy tips for all your social media needs. Online habits can often be an awkward and intrusive topic at first, so talking to your child early can make sharing this type of information more comfortable and natural. Likewise, educating yourself can help you establish this kind of dialogue and help you to take a non-judgemental approach to this topic.

   In terms of what your children are putting online, there are some things you can teach them to avoid. Personally identifiable information (PII) is commonly used but only in specific situations for example, in online shopping. This information can be used to identify people specifically, such as passports, cards, or national identity numbers. Explain to them that this information should never be posted publicly. The same goes for photos, and status’, children (and adults for that matter) should not be posting anything that they don’t want out there forever or to be screenshotted. There is no such thing as delete! Many platforms will allow you to deactivate an account but not delete it and so once something is online, it’s there to stay.

   It’s very easy to be led into a false sense of security on social media. Often, default privacy settings are set to make it easier for third parties to have access to your data for advertising/marketing purposes. They usually can see information such as GPS, access to your address book, email address, and social media accounts. When setting up your own, or your child’s account, be sure to disable these options. 

   Warn them to not share too many personal details. Location services on social media apps can cause many problems, it can give a vague idea of a location such as a city, or it can be pinpointed to an actual street in some cases. Children need to be aware of how easy it is for people to give details of their whereabouts away, due to reverse image searches, open-source tools, and crowdsourcing. Even the photos that they are posting can give clues away, for example, a view from a window, or specific references in videos or envelopes with addresses on them. Things like this can create accidents. For example, broadcasting you have an empty house if you are showing that you’re on holiday could cause a break-in, in some cases or it could make someone aware if your child is home alone.

   On the same note, allowing their friends and families to track them can be a dangerous game. Location tracking is often the default setting on many mobile apps and devices, which shows their whereabouts on pictures, statuses, and even direct maps for example on ‘Snap Maps’. All of which can allow unwanted and even criminal activity against them. 

   Being skeptical when reviewing friend and message requests is also beneficial when using social media and apps. Once people have got through the initial security barriers and have direct access to someone’s ‘profile’, it gives them a great deal of information you didn’t even realise was accessible to them. Teaching your children to be discerning will help to keep them safe and put your mind at rest.

   In the past, it was very rare for people to use their real names online. Nowadays, it is much more common, for people to use real names and those who use fake ones do it due to issues of harassment, lack of free speech, or even domestic incidents. It is important to realise, you can use whatever visible name you like, without being in one of the previously mentioned scenarios. Being anonymous can avoid these situations from happening in the first place.

   A very valuable lesson that everyone should be taught is that what we see online is not real life! Being naïve and gullible is the last thing you want yourself and your child to be when using the internet. This does not just come down to social media profiles of unrealistic beauty standards, but also messenger scams, bogus download links, and fake competitions or giveaways. If something looks or sounds too good to be true, that’s most likely because it is.

   Talking to your children about privacy online can include anything from their settings to consent, to talking with strangers, and even to what constitutes an appropriate photo – it is also useful to remind them to ask their friends for consent before sharing online.

   The internet is the largest source of information and whilst this is infinitely beneficial, it can also be very dangerous to young, impressionable minds. Whilst it is a great place to connect and social network, it doesn’t come without risk. Frequently, people (especially kids) can forget they’re talking to real people when behind a screen. It is imperative that we remind our children to post with kindness. Bullying is a big deal and social media, unfortunately, makes it easier to do, and it can be done anonymously which creates even more issues.

    Talking to your kids about cyberbullying and trolling is extremely important. It has been an issue for several years now and involves harassing and targeting another person online. Usually, for children and teenagers, it occurs between people who know each other from school, for example. Reminding them that words hurt will never go amiss, but also assuring them that they can speak to you if they feel they are being trolled online. The blocking feature is the most appropriate step for dealing with a bully. This means they can no longer view their profiles, or send messages, and usually will give you the option of reporting their activity so they can’t continue to offend.

   Every day, social media is integrating itself deeper into our lives, and these lessons will help you and your children protect yourselves while still getting to enjoy the positive and informative aspects of these platforms.

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