Focus

Your Children’s Digital Life: Keeping Them Safe Online

Today, whether at home or at school, on a PC, video game console or a mobile phone – your children have their own digital lives. With that come risks their personal privacy and safety. As a parent, you can keep your children safe, and their digital lives protected by being diligent, educating, and using parental controls when necessary. In this special focus, the JustAskGemalto team rounds up some our favorite, and most effective ways to keep your children safe online.

Area One: Social Media

It is safe for your kids to use social media sites as long as you monitor their usage. There are parental controls you can set, permissions to grant and filters to apply within Windows and your Internet browser. If you open your Internet browser, go to the Help tab. Enter "Content Advisor" in the search box and you'll find the resource: "Help your children browse the Internet more safely." To make specific changes to control Internet use, there's a helpful link "Block or allow specific Web sites."

When it comes to talking with your children about social networking risks, the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” couldn’t be more apropos. Information on the Internet can be shared widely and rapidly, making it nearly impossible to take back or alter once it’s out there. Here are risks to discuss with your children when using social media:

  • • Sharing too much personal information. This includes their cell phone number, address, hometown, school name and your names. Younger children’s profiles especially should be set to “private.”
  • • Giving their password to anyone but you. Explain that this allows anyone to “be” you, online. Someone can trick a child with “Hey, did you know that if you type your password it’ll show up as asterisks?” Needless to say, it doesn’t.
  • • Impulsive posting. Photos and comments are online forever. Think before you post.

If someone downloads them, they’ve got them. Or, if Google or other search engines find them they keep a copy of the original content even if it’s been removed. You can see that as “cached” if you do a Google search. Tell your children that some college admissions boards and employers are checking social networking sites before they admit students or hire people.

Children need to know the details of protecting themselves on social networking sites. A Harris/McAfee poll found that 87 percent of teens go online from a computer or mobile device outside of their home. And, they are not just accessing the sites from their Macs or PCs but also from smartphones and hand-held gaming devices. Here are some rules to follow: There are family-friendly social networking sites that offer several social media components including “Friend” connections for sharing content, comments and photos. Look for sites that are set-up for security so children are not able to share personal information. Typically, a software download and install is necessary to run the application and the sites require registration and in some cases, paid membership.

Area Two: Gaming

Internet games can be a safe and enjoyable online activity, but to keep all the PCs on your home network safe, here are some tips. A multiplayer Internet game sometimes requires an exception to the firewall rule to allow information from the game to get through to your computer. However, anytime you accept more permissive security settings on your firewall, you increase the chance of getting a virus or malicious program. So make sure you are comfortable with the company behind the game before you agree to make an exception. A more cautious option: Your firewall may allow you to designate specific IP addresses of gaming friends as "trusted" to reduce the possibility of a malicious program infecting your computer.

You can check that a game is age appropriate by checking its rating. Video games are given age ratings depending on content by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). Ratings are as follows:

C - Early Childhood: Age 3+

E – Everyone: Age 6+

E10+ - Everyone: Age 10+

T – Teen: Age 13+

M - Mature 17+: Age 17+

A - Adults 18+: Age 18+

Games are rated for age based the type of content it contains such as violence, language, blood, sexual, drug use and gambling. Most video game stores will verify age before selling a video game to a child, but parental supervision in purchasing is recommended.

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Area Three: Downloading Music

When it comes to downloading music, it is important to teach your children about safe, and legal, downloading practices. Here are some great tips to share with your children:

1. Teach them the word “copyright.” Downloading and/or sharing music that is copyrighted without the consent of the copyright owner is illegal. Alert your children that the federal government takes illegal download of media very seriously, and criminal penalties have been as much as five years and prison and/or $250,000 in fines.
2. Tell them the good news: there are many websites from which it is legal to pay for and download music. It is up to you to decide whether you want your children to use pay-for-music sites. Some of the sites include:

3. Make downloading music fun and interactive. Many of the legal sites allow you and your children to create and maintain playlists, review music, see the top songs in many categories, and more. It is a great opportunity for you to explore different kinds of music with your children.

Remember to read a few more of our tips on music and file sharing: How does music and file sharing work? And, Is it legal to share music and movie files?

Area Four: Shopping

Today, children are shopping online more than ever before. This gives parents the opportunity to teach their kids to be savvy, and safe, when they shop online. Some guidelines to follow:

1. Show your children how to find out if an online retailer is legitimate. A great resource is ResellerRatings.com, where more than 495,000 consumers have reviewed more than 25,000 online stores.

2. Surf with them and show them how to find the online retailer’s return and shipping policies. It is best to shop with established retailers that have clearly defined policies.

3. Teach your children to be bargain hunters. Surfing from different established online stores and comparing prices is a great way to get the best deal. Your children can have fun with the research, but when it comes time to buy, you should handle the transaction yourself.

4. Let them create wish lists to take away the guesswork when buying gifts. Many retail sites have this capability. This lets your children enjoy shopping online and picking out products without actually making any transactions.

5. Lastly, use JustAskGemalto’s other resources on online shopping and Internet safety to illustrate best practices to your kids:

• - If I have a secure connection to a website, does that mean I can trust the website?

• - Is the Internet secure?

• - What is the safest way to pay online?

• - How can I protect myself from fraudulent use of my payment card on the Internet?

• - How do I know if it is safe to enter my credit card information when I am shopping online?

• - What is PayPal?

Area Five: Cyber Bullies

Cyber bullies embarrass, frighten and/or harm their victims. They are empowered by the anonymity of the Internet as they do not have to confront their victim face-to-face. Cyber lawyer and bullying expert Parry Aftab describes four types of bullies:

1. The “Vengeful Angel” cyber bully often gets involved trying to protect a friend who is being bullied or cyber bullied

2. The “Power-Hungry” and “Revenge of the Nerds” named so for their technical skills, these bullies want to exert their authority, show that they are powerful enough to make others do what they want and some want to control others with fear.

3. “Mean Girls” cyber bully for entertainment, to build their egos. It may occur from a school library or a slumber party, or from the family room of someone’s house after school. This kind of cyber bullying requires an audience and stops if they don’t get it.

4. “Inadvertent” cyber bulling occurs while kids are experimenting in role-playing online and send or post a cyber bullying comment targeting someone without understanding how serious this could be. They do it because they can, or for the fun of it.

Education is the most effective tool to help your children deal with cyber bullying.

• Understanding the motives can stop bullying. Start by teaching them to recognize the four profiles of cyber bullies and their motives (See also “What is cyber bullying and who are the bullies?”).

• Ask your child about incidences of bullying in their school to see what they know.

• Listen and be alert to signs your child is being bullied. Respond immediately by talking with your child’s school guidance counselor or a teacher. It’s also important to confront the bully.

• Support partnerships between parents, teachers and school administrators to teach prevention with awareness-raising campaigns.

Need help? There are organizations dedicated to help you and your children with cyber bullying. One organization working to reduce bullying in schools is New York-based CSEE (The Center for Social and Emotional Education). It’s part of Teachers College at Columbia University and their mission is to improve the climate for learning in schools. They teach students and adults how to stand up to bullying by: helping others who have been bullied, stopping untrue or harmful messages from spreading, making friends outside of current cliques and befriending new students.

The Teenangel program, created by WiredSafety.org, trains 13-18 year old volunteers to run programs in schools around the country to help make the Internet a safer place. A Tweenangels program has been formed for those between ages of 7-12.

Netbullies.com was founded by cyber lawyer Parry Aftab to educate the public on the prevention and handling of cyber bullying and harassment. They reach out to kids, parents, schools, the police and the media.

These is just the tip of the iceberg of the amount of information we have for you and your kids on JustAskGemalto.com. Search through the site, and find out much, much more!

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