Safe Surfing and Tech Learning for Teens

August 19, 2015

Perhaps you are feeling distressed that summer is nearly behind you and back to school is just around the corner, bringing with it homework tantrums, school runs, and tired teens. Or perhaps you can’t wait to have some peace and quiet in the house again and hand your kids over to their courageous teachers. Well, one thing doesn’t change. Your kids are constantly connected. Connected via mobile, tablet, and computer. Connected to their friends, and foes. Connected to the latest news and gossip, the hottest trends, their favourite hobbies.

When your kids head back to school they will certainly be more occupied during the working day, however it won’t take long after they get back from school before they are tuned back into their virtual worlds. Many schools are also making the shift to web-based learning, meaning your kids will be spending even more time online to do their school work.

The internet has incredible things to offer kids and teenagers; it’s where they learn, collaborate, connect, and create. However, cyberspace poses a number of risks, and as parents, you play an essential role in protecting your teens from online threats.

8 Easy to Implement Safety Tips

Now that your kids are heading back to school, it is the perfect time to talk safety tips and turning cloud surfing into cloud learning. To ensure that your teens are using the cloud and other online tools to their advantage and not to their detriment, take note of these eight easy to implement safety tips:

1. Don't Talk to Strangers- When your kids were small, you told them not to talk to strangers they encountered in the outside world.. The same applies to strangers online. Your kids should never give out their personal information, and if someone tries to contact them, they should inform you or another adult immediately.

2. Stay in the Loop- According to Jean-Sebastien, cyber-security expert, the biggest mistake parents make is not being aware of what their kids are doing online. Be open with your kids, talk to them about what they are doing online, what they are posting about, what they are reading about, and who they are talking to.

3. Trust Your Gut- If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Tell your teens to trust their instincts and not to click on links, pop ups or downloads if they look dodgy, because they probably are.

4. Communicate with the School- Check in with your kids’ teachers and find out what sort of assignments they have been set by school. Will they be online? What tools should they be using to help them? How much time are they expected to spend online? Also, when the school sends home a release requesting permission to post your child’s projects, videos, and perhaps even photograph online, make sure you read it very carefully before signing. Exactly what does it cover? How public will it be? Does it cover just teachers and school representatives, or does the release extend to other students or even visitors to the school?

5. Limit Social Media Time- Once your kids are 13 they can create their own social media accounts and you won’t be able to stop it. Social media can be a great way of keeping in touch with family and friends but when a social media feed is the first thing your teen checks when they wakes up and the last thing they check before they go to bed, you might need to intervene. Taking away mobiles during the night time is a good start. If you are worried that your teen is becoming addicted, check out this post on “The 5 Kinds of Facebook Addicts and what you can do if your Teen is one of them.”

6. Encourage Kid Friendly Search Engines- There are search engines out there that are designed specifically to be safe for kids. For example: Safe Search for Kids, Kidz Search, or Kids Click.

7. Setup Parental Controls- For that extra reassurance make sure you have additional safety controls on your home computer. Bear in mind that there is nothing on a mobile device that will protect your child so make sure you know what they are downloading. Cyber-security expert, Jean-Sebastien believes one of the biggest worries is that kids are downloading free apps and “sending data to the developers and this information is often resold to anyone who will pay for it.”

8. Be Prepared to Pay- If you are not paying for the product, you are the product. Generally it’s safer to use paid apps that have vetted content and easy to access support.

Cover image courtesy of Flickr.

Written by

Charlotte Nichols

Charlotte Nichols is a Marketing Associate at Learning Bird, a personalized library of teacher-created digital lessons for grades 6 - 12.