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Keeping kids safe

Keeping kids safe

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As the definition of “privacy” changes in the modern age, it’s more important than ever to ensure your child is posting safely and responsibly on social networks. 

These days, kids are glued to their social media. Whether using Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook on a smartphone from the high school cafeteria, the younger generation is in constant communication with their peers. That’s why addressing the issue of privacy on social media should be a priority of all parents. 

This also means kids need to understand how to behave appropriately and know what information is OK to share. With the threats of online predators, hackers, or cyberbullies being very real and very relevant, it’s important to prevent them from accessing your child’s personal information, including phone number, home or email address, or personal photos, for malicious reasons. Review the following issues with your child to ensure they know what is and isn’t OK on their social media profile.

  • Everything you share is permanent. Anything you post online can potentially live on the Internet permanently. Even when you delete a photo or message, it can be screen-captured, copied, forwarded, shared, or stored on other people’s computers. Therefore, you must carefully consider everything you post. 
  • Don’t share personal information. This means don’t post your phone number, email address, home address, or “tag” your city of residence on sites that allow you to do so, such as Facebook. Also don’t share information about your school or schedule.
  • Only communicate with people you know. Your social networks should be comprised of people you know personally. If a stranger contacts you trying to get personal information, details about where you go to school, etc., let an adult know.
  • Carefully select the photos you post. It’s best to have a profile photo that isn’t a photo of you (which can attract unwanted attention). Ask a parent to approve all photos you post, and carefully consider what you would want your friends to see. Remember, too, that any photo you post could also be altered to embarrass you or make you look bad.
  • Do not share mean posts or pictures about other people. If you see a mean comment, forward, tweet, or other social media communication, you should never share it with your friends. This is cruel behavior and can be legally unsafe for both you and the person who shared it.
  • Make an appropriate screen name. If your social media site requires you to make a screen name, make one that doesn’t personally identify you—and make it appropriate.
  • Report anything that makes you uncomfortable. If someone is making you uncomfortable or hurting your feelings via social media, report it to your parents.
  • Social networking is not a bad thing. The American Psychological Association, for instance, points out that shy teens and pre-teens can better learn how to socialize behind the safety of computer screens and mobile devices. But if your child accidentally exposes too much of his or her personal information, they could be asking for serious trouble.

Here are some Safety Tips to help you think about online safety for your family. 

  • Use the Internet with your kids. While you're spending time with them, you can help them to be safe and responsible online.
  • Learn about the technology together, ask lots of questions, and don't be intimidated if it seems like your kids have a better understanding of the technology than you. Remember, it's your family, and you have the power and responsibility to keep an eye on what your kids are doing.
  • Teach kids never to give their personal information to people they meet online, especially in chat rooms and on bulletin boards. If you have a family web site with your children's pictures up, don't include information like where they go to school, where you live, your phone number, or any other personally identifiable information -- that's giving personal information out every bit as much as sending an e-mail or talking to someone in a chat room.
  • Instruct your child never to plan a face-to-face meeting with online acquaintances, and to notify you if they are approached for an offline meeting.
  • Establish clear ground rules for Internet use for your family. Think about signing a Contract with your children that reflects those rules. Learn about the different parental control tools, protective software, and controlled access options that are available, and decide which, if any, are best for your needs.
  • Tell your children not to respond if they receive offensive or dangerous e-mail, chat requests, or other communications, and to leave if they go to a web site that makes them uncomfortable. Also tell them to show you anything they receive that makes them uncomfortable. Assuring them that you won't be angry with them and that they are not to blame can help you to develop a trusting, open relationship.
  • If you become worried that your child or another child is in danger, don't hesitate to contact the authorities.

What You Really Need Know

Q. Who is in control of my young child's personal information online?
A. You are in control of your young child's personal information. 

Q. How will I know if a Web site is collecting personal information from my child under 13 years old?
A. Web sites wishing to collect personal information about your children will seek you out and let you decide whether or not they may collect, use and/or share that information. 

Q. How will they notify me?
A. Web sites will try to email you to seek your permission. If your child tries to provide information about him or herself, the site will ask her for your contact information and use that information to seek your permission.

Q. How do I prove/verify that I am my child's parent?
A. Web sites will ask you to verify that you are the parent in several possible ways. Some will ask that you call a toll-free phone number and speak with a trained operator who will verify that you are the parent. Some sites will ask you to send a note via postal mail or via fax. The Web site may also seek credit card information to prove that you are the parent. 

Q. How do I know if a Web site will respect my child's privacy?
A. Proactively surf with your children and familiarize yourself with the Web sites they most like to visit. First, look to see if there is a privacy policy posted on the Web site -- it should be easy to find. Next, read the policy and ask yourself if the Web site shares your child's information with others outside of the company.

4 Tips To Prevent Cyberbullying

  • Be a proactive parent - Cyberbullying is — and should be — a major concern for parents. Doing what you can to prevent your child from being a perpetrator or victim is paramount.
  • Define what cyberbullying is - Talk to your child about what cyberbullying behavior is. The Cyberbullying Research Center defines cyberbullying as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” However, it is not limited to that. Your child may be participating in cyberbullying unknowingly. Things like forwarding a hurtful message or taking inappropriate photos of someone can also be considered cyberbullying (and, more importantly, make your child legally liable). Ensure your children know what this behavior is and that they do not participate.
  • Keep an eye out for telltale signs - Though you may encourage communication, your child may feel uncomfortable talking about their cyberbullying problems for reasons such as fear, insecurity, or shame. Marie Newman, co-author of the book When Your Child Is Being Bullied: Real Solutions, lists behaviors that may be symptoms of a child who has been a victim of cyberbullying.
Your child suddenly spends much more — or much less — time social networking, or asks to have a social media account shut down.
After texting or being online, your child seems withdrawn, upset, or outraged.
Your child suddenly avoids formerly enjoyable social situations.
Your child blocks a number or an email address from their account.
Many new phone numbers, texts, or email addresses show up on your child’s phone, laptop, or tablet.
  • If you notice any of these behaviors, gently address the subject with your child, offering your love and support.
  • Encourage your community to take action - Be a role model for your own child, and encourage others to follow suit. The Bully Project encourages individuals to mobilize their communities and take a stand against bullying by uniting students, teachers, parents, and the community at large. You can review a toolkit and resources for anti-bullying advocates, and encourage dialogue within your community.   Preventing your child from becoming a victim or perpetrator of cyberbullying is in your hands. Therefore, you should always encourage an open dialogue about this important issue.

Children's Online Privacy Protection Act

The primary goal of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule is to give parents control over what information is collected from their children online and how such information may be used.

The Rule applies to:

  • Operators of commercial Web sites and online services directed to children under 13 that collect personal information from them;
  • Operators of general audience sites that knowingly collect personal information from children under 13; and
  • Operators of general audience sites that have a separate children's area and that collect personal information from children under 13.

The Rule requires operators to:

  • Post a privacy policy on the homepage of the Web site and link to the privacy policy on every page where personal information is collected.
  • Provide notice about the site's information collection practices to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting personal information from children.
  • Give parents a choice as to whether their child's personal information will be disclosed to third parties.
  • Provide parents access to their child's personal information and the opportunity to delete the child's personal information and opt-out of future collection or use of the information.
  • Not condition a child's participation in a game, contest or other activity on the child's disclosing more personal information than is reasonably necessary to participate in that activity.
  • Maintain the confidentiality, security and integrity of personal information collected from children.
  • In order to encourage active industry self-regulation, COPPA also includes a safe harbor provision allowing industry groups and others to request Commission approval of self-regulatory guidelines to govern participating Web sites' compliance with the Rule.  

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