SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – School is just a couple weeks from being out for the summer season. Kids suddenly will have a lot of extra time on their hands. In this weeks Cybersafe Parent report, a children’s expert is reminding parents of the bad things that can happen if all that extra time ends up being spent online.
A report by the United Nations Children’s Fund shows that children under 18 represent 1 in 3 Internet users worldwide. With classroom barriers no longer there to guide kids online behavior, summer vacation presents a greater opportunity for online abuse.
“In the moment, kids having a good time and they are taking pictures of some fun thing they are doing but it may not be the kind of thing they want a future employer to think about. Even if it goes away or looks like it goes away you should think about it being public and permanent. Public, everybody can see it people you don’t want to see it and didn’t mean for them to see it. They can see things you posted, said Pam Clasgen of the National Children’s Advocacy Center.
So what can a parent do to lessen the chance that a child spends unattended time online perhaps making a bad decision?
Puresight Online Child Saftey offers these suggestions that will help you keep your kids safe, when online, this summer:
Spend some offline time with your kids, daily! Try to devote some time every day to do something with your kids that doesn’t involve a computer, TV, phone or any other kind of device. Spend time at the park in the morning, go to the beach in the afternoon, or just play an old fashioned board game at night. Your kids may decide its more fun to continue with similar activities in the other parts of their day, even when you are not there.
Give kids fun alternatives, even when you can’t be there with them. Encourage your children to participate in “traditional” activities such as sports, dance, arts and crafts or camp – activities that will keep them away from their computer.
Going on a family vacation? Use your vacation time for relaxing and spending time with your family and try to avoid constantly checking your phone for emails or messages. If you don’t do it, your kids will be less likely to do so. Avoid posting details (dates, location) of your family vacation for the entire world to see, and make sure your kids don’t do so either.
Discourage “checking-in” and geo-tagging. Checking-in at certain locations on Facebook, Foursquare or other social networks is “cool” but could affect your kids’ online reputation and privacy and could expose your home and family to risk. Make sure your kids turn off any geo-tracking tools and avoid “checking in”.
Cyberbullying doesn’t end with the school year. Be aware of the warning signs that may indicate that your child is a cyberbullying victim. Notice any behavior that seems unusual. Does your child normally enjoy using the computer but suddenly no longer wishes do so? Is your child constantly engaged with interacting over the internet all hours of the day and night? These could be warning signs that you need to pay attention to.
Set summer online use boundaries. Set expectations early, even before the summer vacation begins. It is always advisable to have an online use contract, but perhaps this is the time to revise the contract and create a special “Summer Internet Use Contract” and a “Summer Mobile Phone Use Contract” to define clear and understandable rules about what is acceptable and what is not. Make sure you and your children sign the contract and agree on the terms.
Kids are more likely to meet online friends in person during the summer. This may not always be such a bad idea if handled correctly. Together with your kids, make sure the following rules are adhered to:
Your permission and involvement are required.
Any meeting should be in a public place that you have selected, with plenty of people around, after you have learned about this friend and their family. You should always be there to make sure everything is OK. Trust your instincts. If anything doesn’t feel right, cancel the meeting.
Use filtering and blocking software. PureSight can assist you in monitoring your children’s online behavior on both PC and mobile devices, setting time limits and in blocking offensive and hateful content, even on Facebook and in instant messaging programs.