Community Voices

Parents, here are back-to-school cyber safety tips

If your children are awake, chances are they’re online.
If your children are awake, chances are they’re online. MCT File

Thank you to Kelly Sterling of Crime Watch partner AT&T for sharing these tools necessary to keep your kids safe:

If your children are awake, chances are they’re online.

The risks associated with kids online include cyberbullying, accessing inappropriate chat rooms, sharing personal information with strangers, and more. With students headed back to school, AT&T offers these tips to help you ensure your children use technology safely:

Use parental controls. Ask your internet provider what parental controls are available to you. For example, AT&T Smart Limits for wireless allows parents to block unwanted calls and data use; set text and purchase limits; limit phone use during certain times of day; check on daily phone activity; and get customized alerts and weekly reports. Parental controls for internet service include the ability to block access to specific services, view your child’s activities online, and receive tamper controls alerts.

Know what your kids are doing online. Talk with your kids about cyberbullying and other online issues regularly.

▪ Know the sites your kids visit and their online activities. Ask where they’re going, what they’re doing, and who they’re doing it with.

▪ Tell your kids that as a responsible parent, you may review their online communications if you think there is a reason for concern.

▪ Ask for their passwords, but tell them you’ll only use them in case of emergency

▪ Ask to “friend” or “follow” your kids on social media sites, or ask another trusted adult to do so.

▪ Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they, or someone they know, is being cyberbullied.

Establish rules about appropriate use of computers, cellphones and other technology.

▪ Be clear about what sites they can visit and what they are permitted to do when they’re online.

▪ Tell them not to share anything that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others.

▪ Encourage kids to think about who they want to see the information they post online. Think about how people who aren’t friends could use the information.

Remind them to keep their passwords safe and not to share them, because sharing that information could compromise their control over their online identities and activities.

Check privacy settings. Make sure you set the privacy settings on any social media your child uses. The more private, the less likely inappropriate material will be received by your child, or sent to their circle of acquaintances. Make sure your child understands that everything sent over the Internet or a cellphone is public and can be shared with the entire world, so it is important that they use good judgment.

Talk to your teen about the dangers of smartphone-distracted driving. Remind your teen that no text, glance, post, or email is worth a life. #ItCanWait. Have her take the pledge to keep her eyes on the road, not on her phone at www.itcanwait.com. Also, take advantage of apps that help prevent smartphone distracted driving, like the free AT&T DriveMode app. It silences incoming text message alerts and sends an auto-reply letting the sender know you're driving. And parents can receive a text message if the app is turned off.

Carmen Caldwell is executive director of Citizens’ Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to carmen@citizenscrimewatch.org, or call her at 305-470-1670.

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