Controlling and Reducing Online Risks

Digital technologies amplify the opportunities we have to communicate our thoughts, access information, and express our creativity. These tools can also affect the kinds of risks we face, and the consequences of thoughtless actions. New technologies often give rise to “techno panics” in which the potential dangers are exaggerated or misunderstood, so it’s important to learn about the actual risks and how prevalent they are.

a young girl using a tablet computer

Help Your Kids Make Good Choices

Content

Children are naturally curious and may be accidentally exposed to, or actively seek out, inappropriate content such as pornography, or sites inciting racial or ethnic hatred. However, a smaller group of children may seek information about harmful and risky behaviors, such as sites that advocate anorexia and bulimia, drug use, or cutting. Parental controls can be particularly helpful in keeping younger children from accidentally seeing or actively searching for inappropriate content. And, with all the games and apps available today, children are more susceptible to inadvertently downloading viruses and malware or having the security of their personal information compromised.

Conduct

Some children may be victims or perpetrators of cyberbullying and other mean and nasty behaviors. What happens at school or on the playground can, with cell phones and mobile devices, take place anywhere, anytime. Many kids are able to manage or resolve the issues themselves, but others will need appropriate adult intervention.

Children rarely think about the long term consequences of their actions and may post images or descriptions of themselves engaging in inappropriate behaviors without realizing the speed with which they can be shared, the potential reach, or the permanence of something once it’s posted online. Sexting, photos of drinking or abuse of drugs, and reckless comments on a social networking site can harm a child’s digital reputation and, in some cases, lead to prosecution.

Contact

The threat of predators abducting children gets lots of publicity, but is extremely rare.  Most children ignore or block unknown or suspicious messages. However, a small group of kids who show several real-life risk factors are in greater danger of being susceptible to predators or others who mean harm.

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Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, that provides trustworthy reviews and ratings of media from a child development perspective, parenting tips about media management.  Learn More

ConnectSafely.org

ConnectSafely.org is for parents, teens, educators, advocates – everyone engaged in and interested in the impact of the social Web and mobile technology.  Learn More

Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI)

The Family Online Safety Institute is an international, non-profit organization which works to make the online world safer for kids and their families. Through research, resources, events and special projects, FOSI promotes a culture of responsibility online and encourages a sense of digital citizenship for all.
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Netsmartz

Educational resource from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Discusses various Internet safety topics.  Learn More

Online Safety Redefined: The 3 Key Elements by Stephen Balkam, CEO, Family Online Safety Institute

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Protecting Privacy

Many people, especially children, don’t realize the truly “open” nature of the Internet and its communities. Just as parents caution younger children against talking to strangers and revealing personal information in real life, you should teach your child to be careful not to reveal private, personal information when online.

Posts, chats and other interactions that take place on the web often can be seen not only by friends and family but by complete strangers. In addition, some apps and websites gather personally identifiable information about users, creating records of what they do and where they go. It’s important to explain that private information such as your child’s full name, telephone number, address, school, etc. should remain out of their online communications and activities.

As your children grow older, continually remind them of the necessity of acting responsibly to protect their privacy and of knowing what information is being collected about them. Older children and teens should know that others on the Internet aren’t always who they say they are, and that they can’t trust strangers online any more than they can in face-to-face contacts. With this in mind, you should reinforce with them how they need to be as anonymous as possible during both their online interactions and even with things as simple as creating email addresses and user account names. And, they should never share a password, even with a friend.

Learn More About Social Media Privacy

In Case You Missed It

In Case You Missed It is a video series about the latest and greatest websites, apps and products to help you manage your kids online and media activities.

Are you using the same password over and over? You shouldn’t be!
Do you have a creative kid? Sure you do!