When I saw the theme for Safer Internet Day 2016 was “Play Your Part for a Better Internet” I was pumped. With our Good Digital Parenting program, I get the chance to speak often with parents and I always feel like they are crushed when I can't tell them exactly what they need to do to keep their kids safe online. Don't get me wrong I can give guidance and share tips on best practices. I can encourage them and advise them how to approach their kids with confidence about online behaviors, but when it comes down to it there isn't a magic formula that I can share that will instantly make the Internet safe.
The truth is that the Internet can only be safe if we all acknowledge that we play a part in making it safe. That our actions and habits online determine if the Internet is safe for us and who we interact with. We are quick to put the pressure on policymakers or various tech companies, but we struggle to identify how our actions have an effect.
Online safety has a snowball effect, every little action adds up to a larger result. And if we want to take it further their are no two snow flakes that are a like ( while I write this snow is in the forecast), therefore there isn't a one size fits all solution for online safety.
How to identify your part
As a parent your part is two fold. You are responsible for you own actions online but you are also responsible for the actions of your child. The two mesh well together, if you are practicing safe online behavior, it is likely your child will mimic your actions.
To establish your part, you need to think about what exactly it isn you are doing when online. If you are someone who doesn't use messaging apps or participate in social media, then chances are your part won't need to focus on improving your online interactions with others, instead you might need to focus on creating secure passwords.
Next, take a look at how your child uses the Internet. Take some time to sit down with them and ask them what apps and social networks they are using. If you are not familiar with any of the programs ask them to show you how they work. Ask them about their passwords and help them determine if they are secure.
If your child uses social networks and messaging apps explain to them the importance of cyberethics and how you expect them to interact on those sites. Help them understand who it is ok to interact with online by sitting with them and creating a list. Let them know that these are actions you are taking as well with your online presence.
Practice Safe Habits
There are some Internet safety basics that are a good place to start when trying to improve your behavior online. For 2016 make it a goal to spend some time on each of the suggestions below,
- Make sure your passwords are secure and that you get into the habit of changing them often. Seldom is it ok to share a password with anyone.
- Develop a process for deciding who you will interact with online. Remember you don't have to accept every follower request.
- Understand the various privacy settings available to you in each program you use. Set your privacy settings appropriately for you and check them often.
- Create a code of cyberethics and follow it.
Accept that you are responsible for you own actions and know that you are responsible for the information shared on you account.
Image courtesy of Flickr.