In this series, we will highlight 10 tips to help start the conversation around protecting our children in a digitally enabled world. The 1st part of the series
focused on screen time, browser history checks and social media monitoring. In the 2nd part of the series
, we will dig into being aware of illegal behavior, cyber-bullying and virus protection. For the 3rd and final part of the series, we will cover the concept of digital permanence, limiting personally identifiable information, discouraging illegal hacking & leaning into your parental spidey sense:
As we mentioned earlier, the ability for technology to keep a record of behavior is unprecedented. Along with the capability to record is the ability to retrieve at a later time. Parents/guardians must be vigilant about what their kids are posting on the internet as it can come back to harm them. In a recent case, a group of admitted students at Harvard had their acceptances rescinded due to inappropriate messages they posted on a Facebook group
for incoming students. There is also a risk that things they post on websites or message boards may be permanently connected to their digital identity when Google searches are performed. As a result, it is important to explain to your kids the concept of digital permanence and help them understand that their behaviors as kids will be connected to their digital identity for life. This may impact their ability to be accepted to college or to secure a job post-graduation
Eliminate personally identifiable information
When kids are using technology or interacting online, they often want their personality to shine through. So, they will pick usernames that include personally identifiable information like their name, favorite sports team, birthday, etc…However, it is important that parents/guardians eliminate this personally identifiable information wherever possible. The reason for this is that savvy criminals can stitch seemingly disconnected data together and use this information to gain the confidence of your child. For example, if they found out your kid’s name; they could cross reference the last name with the geography and discover the parent or guardian’s name. And, once they find the parent/guardian’s name, they can find out where you work. It goes on and on. In addition to eliminating personally identifiable information in usernames, it is also important that they do not disclose this information when they are engaging with others online. They should not be sharing where they live, who their parents are, sibling names, etc…
Discourage illegal hacking
Over the years, hacking has gotten a bad reputation as something that is counter-culture and sometimes illegal. As kids learn more about computers, they will start to learn about how to do things that may not be appropriate like hacking into their friend’s Facebook account and posting messages. Or, they might learn how to hack into the gradebook at school and modify their grades or those of their friends. It is important to discuss with your kids that as they learn more and more about the features and functionality of computer systems and networks that they do not engage in this type of behavior. These actions can carry with them severe legal and financial penalties
Have a spidey sense
While the above tips are not meant to be exhaustive, the most important tool in your kit as a parent/guardian is your spidey-sense. If you notice a change in your child’s behavior, it’s time to have a conversation. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable to have these discussions. But, the risks are real. And whether it’s legal trouble, accessing inappropriate content or engaging with people they shouldn’t, it is important to remain vigilant in order to protect your child.
The ultimate goal is to develop independence so that can eventually use your guidance and those of others to know when something doesn’t seem right and they can get out of trouble before things go too far.
What other tips would you suggest for keeping kids safe online?