School’s out for summer and that means more free time for kids to play outdoors and online. Just as you remind them to keep safe outside by applying sunscreen and drinking water to stay hydrated, you should also continue your conversation about online safety:
1. Talk to your child about how to be safe online.
Children are vulnerable and predators know this. It is important to be honest about online predators, sexting and cyberbullying. Do they know the person they are chatting with in real life? If they see something threatening or scary, will they share it with you immediately? You empower your child by teaching him/her how to handle uncomfortable online situations or contact by a stranger.
2. Know what they are doing online.
Monitor your child’s access to the Internet including email, chat rooms, instant messengers, and social media apps. Make sure parental controls are set and all devices have virus protection. You should know which social media platforms, games, and other websites they visit often. In a casual way, ask your child who their best friends are online, who they speak with often, and what apps they use (The 22 Dangerous Apps Parents Should Look For On Their Kids’ Phones).
3. Help your kids develop healthy online habits.
Establish rules and screen time limits. Instruct them to never give out their name, address, telephone number, school name, or any other personal information. Never share a photo with a stranger or someone they don’t know in real life. Remind them once something is posted or sent, it can’t be taken back.
4. Encourage outdoor activities.
The internet has some great resources for fun and education, but summer is a time for them to go outside and enjoy some fresh air. Encourage activities such as riding a bike, walking the dog, or playing a sport with friends.
Another helpful tool for summer safety is the free family safety OffenderWatch App, which can locate sex offenders near you and your family members and can alert parents if a registered sex offender contacts your child on their device.
Summer can be filled with fun times, just make sure they use their devices safely and responsibly.