The internet is a thrilling, enriching as well as a dangerous place to be. The fact that a fair share of the realm of the internet is still uncharted and unmonitored is indeed a thing of concern. When a teenager uses the computer, their curiosity, search for excitement and peer influence may land them on the sites that are dangerous and frequented by cybercriminals and hackers. The normal safeguards and security practices may not be sufficient.
Technology can be a wonderful thing, but sometimes the benefits come at a cost. Social media, online gaming and chat rooms over the internet can expose teenagers to some scary stuff, such as
- Inappropriate content viewing
- Identity theft
- Falling for online predators
- Encounters with perpetrators of child abuse
A few common things a teenager should be educated about before they step into the internet arena are
- Credibility is important. Your teen needs to know that not everything they read on the internet is true. If your child receives spam or junk emails and texts, remind them never to believe them, reply to them or use them.
- The teenager should understand that despite the photos, people on the internet aren’t always who they seem to be.
- Any photo they post, even ones that disappear after a period, can be shared anywhere without their control. They should think carefully before posting photos that everyone can see and remember and it’s difficult to remove things once they are in cyberspace.
- Make them understand the privacy and permission settings on their phone and apps. Use personal identification numbers (PINs), passwords and two-factor authentication whenever possible.
- Educate them to never give out personal information. Use a made-up name, first names only and only the vaguest hint of where they live.
- Let them understand that meeting someone online can be extremely dangerous, especially meeting them alone or at nighttime. Ask your child who they talk to online and if they know all those people in real life.
- Make them understand that however savvy they may be, they could still fall prey to being chatted up online not only by someone of their own age but also by someone pretending to be their age.
- Ask your child what websites and apps they use and what kinds of things they typically see and talk about online. The answers will continually change, so keep asking.
- Let your child know that they can always come to you if they find something questionable online. Let them know that a gut feeling is a good enough reason to share with a parent or a trusted adult.
- Share stories of how people have been lied to or mistreated online. Hearing about a news story or a friend’s experience may let your teen know it’s OK to open up.
- Limit the time your teen spends on the internet. Determine the times it’s OK to be online. If necessary, you can download software to help you enforce the time limits.
- Install parental controls or monitoring software that doesn’t block access but may record activity or send a warning message if your child accesses inappropriate content. Be honest about what you are doing upfront and explain why you are monitoring them (for their safety).
- One popular idea is to change the Wi-Fi password for your home network daily and only give it to your kids when they have earned it via whatever rules you have determined.
- Educate them to never respond to mean or rude texts, messages and emails. Delete any unwanted message and they may need to delete friends who continuously bother them or post things that are not appropriate. Teach your teenagers how to block someone online and report them if they feel uncomfortable.
Make sure your teenager knows the boundaries of what they are allowed to do on the computer. These boundaries should be appropriate for their age, knowledge and maturity. These may include rules about how long they are allowed to be on the computer, what sites they are allowed to visit, what software programs they can use and what tasks or activities they are allowed to do. Any change in behavior, such as deleting an app on their phone, could be a sign that they are being cyberbullied. If you think your teen has been the victim of an internet crime, report it to your local police and the nearest cybercrime office.
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NCSA: "Tips for Teens." https://staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/managing-your-privacy/privacy-tips-teens/