Summertime Digital Safety Tips for Parents

Most kids look forward to summer break. For many, it’s a time for family fun, vacations, swimming, etc., but it also leaves room for kids to spend more time on their digital devices.

According to UNICEF, “Some 80% of children in 25 countries report feeling in danger of sexual abuse or exploitation online. As children embrace more digital platforms, they too may self-generate sexually explicit imagery. And though these images might be intended for an age-appropriate relationship, they can end up widely shared without consent. Sometimes, trusted adults solicit children to share imagery. For a child victim, this may result in social isolation, mental health issues, substance abuse, self-harm or suicide, as well as an increased likelihood of exhibiting abusive behaviors themselves in adulthood.”

There are ways you can help set boundaries in an effort to keep kids safe. Here are a few examples:

  • Set some ground rules for internet usage. Examples of this could include: never posting personal information such as addresses or phone numbers on social media channels, use secure passwords for any digital logins and keep them secure, do not use location check-ins or geo-tagging as it could identify places you frequent when you are away from home.
  • Be open and honest. It’s important for kids to understand that nothing is truly anonymous or temporary. A lot of social media or chat apps have these features, but pictures and text sent this way can still be used by people with bad intentions.
  • Use parental controls when needed. Even for the most educated and tech-savvy kids, parental controls may still be a good option to ensure parents can keep an eye on things or add extra protection to apps that may be questionable.

In an article from BlueCross BlueShield, “The National Cyber Security Alliance offers this general recommendation about making online safety a priority: Don’t let concerns about what might go wrong stand in the way of letting your family explore the vast virtual world. If we, the adults, are educated about risks and employ smart monitoring tools, our kids will be more likely to use technology safely and come to us for advice if they run into anything.”

One helpful tool for all families is a checklist, developed by the Family Online Safety Institute, that can help digital users think about what their posting, and how it will reflect upon them. The checklist can be found here.

Overall, it’s important to implement boundaries and have honest conversations with children and young adults about the do’s and don’ts of social media and internet safety.