Ten Digital Safety Tips for Parents - dummies

Ten Digital Safety Tips for Parents

By Amy Lupold Bair

It’s important to set clear rules for every aspect of your family’s safety regarding your fast-paced, plugged-in life. It’s time to take a step back and promote digital safety within your family without having to revisit each step of your family’s in-depth policy. In this over-connected world, you want to find ways to enjoy the company of your loved ones without power cords, screens, and Wi-Fi.

Always pay attention to digital use

Paying close attention to where your kids are plugged in, what they’re doing online, and what media they are being exposed to is critical not only to enforce your policies, but also to be aware of changes. Continue to pay attention to changes in the technology used in your home, such as updates to privacy policies and automatic download updates to gaming systems.

Also, watch for cues from your children that might indicate areas of concern such as potential exposure to an online predator or harassment from a cyberbully. By being aware of changes in your child’s behavior and digital habits, you may realize that an issue needs to be discussed.

Be a good digital role model

Adults also live in this incredibly plugged-in world. Kids are keen observers of the world around them and are often the first to notice when parents appear to be connected to a smartphone, or laptop. Kids who are Friends with their parents on Facebook also have the opportunity to observe how their parents interact with friends, share information, and discuss personal topics.

Set a good example for your children by being a good digital role model yourself. Would you like to clean up your social media language? Are you trying to cut down on complaining about work in status updates? You may even want to include notes in your Digital Family Policy addressing digital best practices that you will also aim to follow!

Focus on safety

Although many digital etiquette issues concern parents, safety concerns certainly take precedent over such issues as gaming time, posting silly pictures on social media, or purchasing a download without permission.

When creating guidelines for your digital family, always keep safety at the forefront of your decision making. Some examples include sharing of identifying information or agreeing to meet an online friend in real life. Allowing safety concerns to inform all decisions will help you set guidelines that protect your children in many other areas.

Public versus private digital information

Focus on public versus private when discussing best practices to guide your children when sharing info online. Children should constantly consider what’s appropriate to share publicly when using social media, playing online games, interacting with requests for information, and even chatting with friends. Remind your children — often — what information is okay to share publicly and what to always keep private.

Take the time to establish digital limits

Yes, creating a detailed Digital Family Policy is a time-consuming task. Setting vague guidelines for your children about how much screen time is too much or what information is too personal to share publicly is taking the easy road. Without clear limits, children have no way to know when a behavior is crossing a line. And you can’t enforce consequences without clear guidelines.

Rather than writing a nonspecific policy that says “Don’t watch too much television,” for example, specify exactly how many hours of television viewing can occur in a week. When time is up, time is up — without question — making enforcement much easier for parents.

Enforce digital accountability

When clear limits are established, parents can ask children to hold themselves accountable. For example, creating a rule that game consoles can be used only on the weekends is easy to remember, simple to follow, and easy to enforce.

Sure, you can change Parental Controls and settings, but let your children know that they’re in charge of monitoring their behavior as well. This teaches your children responsibility, shows that you trust them to follow the guidelines set for your family, and makes any necessary punishment a consequence of their own actions.

Use available digital resources

Don’t feel like you have to navigate the digital world alone! A huge variety of products and resources are available to help you create your Digital Family Policy and establish safe boundaries for your kids on the devices and applications they use. Each day, new resources appear online and in stores.

Be sure to check often for new monitoring and protection tools and plans as well as informational resources to guide you through emerging technology and changes to devices your kids already use.

Communicate with your kids offline

Many parents use texting, instant messaging, and even social media platforms to communicate with their children. Make sure to also set aside time to communicate often with your children offline. Certain aspects of communication — facial expressions and body language — don’t exist or translate well in digital communication. To more easily protect your children online, be sure to spend time communicating with them offline.

Encourage “unplugged” time

Setting limits for screen time is a great start, but don’t forget to encourage unplugged time as well. Encourage your children to go on a family outing without a smartphone, MP3 player, or tablet for in the car. Try a free day or take an entire weekend to unplug and just enjoy the nondigital life.

Make this unplugged time a special treat rather than a punishment. Be sure to follow your own advice and unplug as well. Point out to your children that it’s okay to experience life without documenting every second of it online.

Join them in their digital world

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Make time to learn to play their favorite video games, Friend them on Facebook, and visit their favorite social gaming platforms. Not only will this give you time together as a family, but you’ll be better able to understand both the pitfalls and the highlights of each aspect of their digital lives.