Summer Safety Tips for the Whole Family

Tom Rich
June 5, 2015

School is out, the days are long, and the grill is fired up…at last, summer is here!

I bet your entire family has been waiting for the chance to relax and have some fun – maybe your young ones are off to camp, your teens are looking forward to road trips with friends, and everyone is excited for the big family vacation.

But with all of this excitement calling upon your family’s attention, it is a good idea to take a moment to think about the role that technology should – or should not – be playing in your summer diversions. Here are some easy guidelines for summer online safety for the whole family.

Younger Kids

  • Turn Location Services Off: Before your kids head off to summer camp, be sure that you have set all of the location services on their apps to Off. This is especially important if they could be going on field trips to public places. Make sure strangers won’t be able to find them.
  • Remind Them What A “Friend” Is: Especially when your children may be making lots of new friends at camp, it’s important to review the basics of who a “friend” is – and is not – online. (Hint: its’ the same as a friend in person.) Remind your children to set all profiles to Private, and to only accept friend or follow requests from real life friends, i.e., children your child has actually met, talks to, would invite for a play date, etc.

Teens and College Students

If you are like most parents, your older teens may be so busy with their friends this summer that you will barely see them. But that doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from some good parental advice.

  • Party Politely: College‐aged kids and older teens are likely to throw big parties or rent houses with their friends. One good way to hammer home how important it is not to geo‐tag their party photos? They may be inadvertently encouraging the arrival of uninvited guests – and things could get ugly. Remind your older kids to be smart about with whom they actually want to share their location.
  • Think About Your Digital Footprint: Without delivering a lecture, a simple reminder that college admissions officers and prospective employers will almost certainly be Googling your child before accepting them or offering them a job should prompt them to keep everything they post on social media this summer clean and classy.

Parents

Been dreaming of a beach getaway since January? Summer should be a time to enjoy yourself – but don’t let your excitement blind you to the dangers social media can pose for an empty home.

  • Avoid Advertising Your Plans: These days, savvy burglars have been known to troll social media sites in order to discover opportunities to burglarize empty homes. Try to stay away from proclamations such as, “Can’t wait! Just two more days until our African safari with the whole family!” Translation to a thief: your house will be empty and vulnerable.
  • Consider a Digital Detox: There are a myriad of health benefits associated with taking regular breaks from hyper‐connectivity. But beyond that, burglars will observe that while you are live tweeting your sailing trip in Bermuda, your home is likely unoccupied.
  • Delay Gratification: Wait until you are safe and sound back at home to share your photos and vacation stories. This way, not only can you be sure that no one will be tipped off to your empty home, but you can “relive” your amazing getaway.

Extended Family

Of course, we love our extended family (and friends so close they feel like family) – but sometimes you have to keep an eye on them to make sure that their digital behavior doesn’t hinder the rules and safety measures you have in place for your family.

  • Control Exposure: It is natural that at barbecues and summer get‐togethers people will be capturing the fun on camera and sharing photos or videos on social media. But think about the wide and vast social networks outside of your knowledge to which this sharing could expose your family. If you’re not okay with pictures of your children going out to an audience you can’t control, you can ask that any pictures of your kids not be shared online.
  • Set House Rules: If you are hosting a party, be sure to ask that your guests not use geo‐tagging or location services when they share pictures taken at your home. Otherwise, any number of people that you don’t know would be able to find your home and your family, neatly pin‐dropped on a map.

Summer is all about kicking back and enjoying yourself. With these tips, you can help keep the whole family safe – so that you can all relax and have fun, without any repercussions brought on by online thoughtlessness.

Cover image courtesy of Flickr.

Written by

Tom Rich

Tom is STOPit’s cyber safety expert and key spokesperson for student and parent rallies, where he encourages the creation of positive school communities. His presentations cover cyberbullying and how technology fuels this epidemic, including detailed looks into the most popular social media sites of the moment and incorporating real-life examples. Tom’s engaging presentation drives home how these forms of communication are affecting our youth everyday and making it easier to be mean to each other. He provides relevant, effective cyber-safe strategies to help children use social media in positive ways and promote safe, kind school communities. Always Connected grew out of Tom’s previous venture, Generation Text.

Tom is also a Sergeant with the Summit Police Department in New Jersey, where he has worked as a Patrol Officer, Detective, Juvenile Detective, Juvenile Sergeant, and Patrol Sergeant. Tom is the Owner and Presenter for AlwaysConnected.org, and has been the keynote speaker at over 700 events nationally, reaching over 500,000 students. Tom has a BA in Criminal Justice from Monmouth University.