For many kids, summer vacation has long been associated with hanging out with friends and playing games. That is still true. Now, however, an increasing amount of that free time is facilitated by computers and mobile devices ‒ social networking sites and apps allow young people to stay in close touch with classmates and family even from afar. But some thought needs to be given to ensuring that Internet-based activities remain safe and secure and that young people maintain control over who has access to their personal information.
Whether posting pictures on Snapchat, posing questions on Ask.fm or using any of the thousands of other social apps and sites, young people love to share. Internet Safety Month is a good time to remind them to think about what they are sharing.
- Share with care: Sharing provocative photos or intimate details online, even in private emails, can cause problems later on. Even people you consider friends can use the information you share online against you.
- Be nice online: Or at least treat people the way you want to be treated. If someone is mean to you, try not to react, definitely don’t retaliate and use privacy tools to block the meanies.
- Be smart about pictures: It is fun to share pictures and, yes, they can sometimes be wacky. But you never know who might see them or how they might affect you in the future.
- Avoid in-person meetings with people you don’t know: It is not necessarily bad to interact with strangers online, but be careful with what information you share and very careful (by letting someone else know or having someone accompany you) before agreeing to meet someone you do not know.
Gaming Safety for Parents and Kids
Regardless of what platform they use, kids are increasingly connected when they play games online. Parents and kids should be aware of what information might be shared online with other players.
- Chat carefully: If a game allows you to chat with other players, be careful about the information you disclose.
- Don’t overdo it: Video games can be fun, but so are physical activity, socializing in person, reading and plain old downtime. It is a good idea to balance summertime activities.
- Know what your kids are playing: Parents should check video games’ ratings and read reviews to be sure they are appropriate for children. The Entertainment Software Rating Board provides game ratings, and Common Sense Media provides reviews of many games, movies and TV shows.
Here are some more “Tips for Smart Videogaming.”
Connected Kids and Phones
Many kids carry phones which can help them stay connected and reach their families in emergencies. However, smartphones also run apps for interactive games that can share locations and so much more.
- Know the apps: Be aware of the apps your kids use. Make sure they are only downloaded from reputable app stores and check their privacy disclosures and settings.
- Be location savvy: Apps that share your location with friends and family can be great, but be sure only the right people can find out where you are.
- Lock your phone: Make sure that you have a secret PIN (personal identification number), a password, fingerprint setting or other security measures in place so that only you can access your phone.
- Know how to locate and wipe your phone: There are free tools like Apple’s iCloud Find my Phone and Google’s Android Device Manager that will help you find your device (if it’s turned on) or wipe it clean if it’s lost.
- For more cell phone safety tips, see Tips for Smart Cellphone Use, A Parents’ Guide to Mobile Phones and the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. Safety Tips for Mobile Devices.