The internet has changed the way that we interact with the world. The vast majority of people in the civilized world own at least one smartphone, and with the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s easy to see why the internet is an essential part of modern life, so much so that it’s even the foundation for many of today’s technologies.
While the internet holds a wealth of information that we can access at any time, it also holds many dangers. Whether it’s malware, cyberbullying, or even the fact that children might be able to access adult websites, it’s important to teach our children proper internet safety before we allow them to use it. These are some of the most important elements to teach them:
What’s Sent Online, Stays Online
The first thing that you need to teach your children is that the internet is permanent. Anything that you post online can be shared, transcribed, cited, and even screencapped. Words can be edited, misconstrued, and taken out of context and they can affect their careers and relationships in the future.
Keep Passwords Private
Passwords are the primary security measure on any website. They protect a user’s account from unwanted access. Passwords are essentially the keys to your online accounts, and you wouldn’t want to be giving your key to strangers. It’s important to teach our children to keep their passwords to themselves, especially when the instances of cybercrimes have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Protect Sensitive Information
It’s also important to teach our children how to determine what kind of information they need to keep to themselves. Remember when we taught children to never give their home address to strangers on the phone? The same principle applies here. Any information that can be used to identify or locate you or child needs to be guarded closely. You might even consider using software to add an extra layer of security for everyone at home. The best virtual private networks (VPNs) are effective at concealing both your location and the information you transmit and receive.
How to Respond to Cyberbullying
Many kids who are cyberbullied don’t want to tell a teacher or parent because of the social stigma that accompanies it, or out of fear that they might no longer be allowed to use the computer. You don’t have to wait for your child to suffer from cyberbullying to teach them how to deal with it. A few things to teach are:
- Don’t respond to cyberbullying
- Keep the threatening messages or pictures for evidence
- Block the bully
- Stay offline
Now, if your child turns out to be the bully, it’s important to speak to your child firmly about this and explain what cyberbullying does to a person. You may even need to restrict the use of computers and cellphones. A good way to do this is to set parental controls on the devices that your child uses.
In worse cases, you might need to work with a therapist to help your child learn to cope with anger, frustration, and other strong emotions.
Ultimately, it’s important to lead by example. Depending on how old your child is, you might need to demonstrate these lessons to them. With the way that technology is developing, it’s important to evolve alongside it.
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