Tips & Advice

How to Keep Your Kids Safe in a Digital World

Presented by Larry Larsen, Director of Cyber Security

Times and technologies have changed dramatically in recent years; students as young as kindergarten age have their own cell phones, and maybe tablets too. They're terrific learning tools, but because they connect your child to the Internet and the world, they have risks that didn't exist years ago.

As we prepare our children and teens to return to school or head off to college, let's take a look at some of the things we need to be aware of to keep them safe in an increasingly digital world.

Cyberbullying has taken a terrible turn recently, with a number of victims choosing suicide as their only solution. Recent studies show that well over one-third of children age 11 to 17 have been bullied or seen someone bullied online.

Online stalkers and predators continue to come up with new and disturbing ways to find their victims. The old rules still apply online – don't talk to strangers, never give out personal information, make sure someone knows where you are. Identity thieves love to use children's information for fraud, so check your kids' credit reports regularly.

In a recent article, Social Media Safety: Do you know who's watching you?, we talked about being careful with the photos you post online; that definitely applies to kids and school too, especially college-bound teens. Predators use online photos to find potential victims, and in many cases, use photos of other youngsters to mislead their targets. These predators trick people into thinking that they are someone else entirely by creating fake profiles on social networking sites. Young adults need to be especially careful about posting on social media; potential employers now review candidates' online presence, and the party pics from Spring Break may come back to haunt them.

The most critical way to get ahead of these risks as a parent is to be involved with what your kids do online, where they go, and who they communicate with. There are a number of apps and tools that help protect your child from navigating outside of the online boundaries you both agreed to. Some parents I've spoken to feel that this level of monitoring is intrusive, that they should allow their children their freedom as they grow. Permit me to be blunt – OF COURSE IT'S INTRUSIVE! You're their parent and it's your job to ensure their safety as much as you are able. A foundation of open, honest communication with your children goes a long way to prepare them for these risks.

The website offers some excellent and reasonable suggestions to help you and your children stay safe as they start their new school year.

Our children are our most valuable treasures – they deserve our best efforts to make sure they're safe as they go out into the world, even if it means playing "Bad Cop" once in a while.

They'll thank you for it… eventually.