Editor’s Note: Our thanks to Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI), for helping us kick off Internet Safety Month here at Comcast Voices.
Following a three-day weekend kicking off the Summer season, it’s important to think about the upcoming months and realize that as kids are getting out of school they will have a lot more free time on their hands, and a lot more time to go online.
And while the Internet offers a variety of wonderful opportunities for learning and sharing information, there are associated risks that come along with surfing the web.
June is Internet Safety Month and the perfect time for parents to sit down with their kids to have a discussion about their online habits and behaviors. Parents need to be engaged in their children’s online activity and ask about the sites they are visiting, who they are interacting with online, and what personal information they are sharing. We like to call it the three C’s:
- The content they are seeking online and posting themselves
- The contact they have with others
- How they conduct themselves on the Internet
Many parents might be surprised to find out how web-enabled their kids are. Many cell phones, devices like the iPod Touch, and gaming consoles have wireless capabilities. And with so many headlines in the media about cyberbullying, sexting and social networking, June is the perfect time to take a step back and think about the foundational layers we need to put in place to make the Internet a safer for families and how we can teach our kids to be responsible when they are online so they don’t succumb to potential risks.
The Family Online Safety Institute promotes a Culture of Responsibility Online. What does this entail? It means that all Internet stakeholders work together to take responsibility for making the web a safer place. This includes reasonable government oversight, robust and comprehensive industry self-regulation, fully resourced law enforcement, tech-savvy teachers, empowered parents and resilient kids who make wise choices online.
We need to empower kids to be able to make smart decisions online, not only about their behavior, but knowing when their peers behavior has gone too far – and if you haven’t already started a conversation with your kids about the potential consequences their actions on the Internet can have, Internet Safety Month is a great time to do it.
Here are 10 of FOSI’s tips for parents during Internet Safety Month:
- Talk with your child about Internet safety as soon as he/she begins using the Internet. It is never too early to start discussing the importance of being a good digital citizen.
- Use age-appropriate filtering, blocking and monitoring software on all Internet-enabled devices used by your child, including laptops, wireless phones and video games.
- Stay involved in your child’s online world by setting limits on his/her "screen time" and monitoring who your child is communicating with online. Get to know the we sites your child is visiting and educate yourself about your child’s online activities.
- Review FOSI’s Internet Safety Contract with your family members, and consider having all family members sign the agreement.
- Explain to your child that he/she should never give out personally identifiable information online. For example, your child should understand that he/she should not post detailed information about his/her whereabouts.
- Make sure your child knows never to meet face-to-face with someone they met online without first talking with you about the situation.
- Tell your child never to share their passwords with anyone, including friends.
- Explain the consequences of posting inappropriate material online. For example, a child’s reputation can be impacted by a status entry or an image that is shared.
- Monitor your child’s mobile phone usage and review text messages sent and received, including images downloaded and uploaded.
- Educate yourself on the latest threats facing kids online (e.g., cyberbullying, sexting, etc.) and arm yourself with information that will allow you to talk to your child about being a good digital citizen.