With kids home from the summertime, chances are they’ll be spending more time on family computers.

As kids spend more time online, the question of how to keep them safe is paramount.

There is a federal law in place, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), to help keep kids safe online. It requires websites to explain privacy policies, get parental consent before collecting or using a child’s personal info, and prohibits requiring a child to provide more personal information than necessary to play a game or enter a contest.

But even with this law, a child’s best protection online is you.
Here are some tips for keeping them safe:

  1. Talk with your kids! Make sure they are comfortable talking with you about their internet use from the start. Talk about internet safety, rules, ways to stay safe, and when to alert you about something that happens online.
  2. Set up some basic rules. Examples may include: never trade any photographs, emails, or personal information including name, address, school name, or location; Use only a screen name (with no full names or birthdays); Never agree to meet any person from online in person; Never respond to threatening messages- instead tell a parent; Tell a parent or adult about any scary or uncomfortable exchanges.
  3. Become computer literate: Learn how to block objectionable material, check internet history, and monitor your child’s internet use
  4. Talk with your child about cyberbulling! Make sure they know to never respond to cyberbullies, to alert you of any cyberbullying, and to not participate in any cyberbullying themselves (for more information and resources, click here)
  5. Keep the computer in a common area. This way, your child can use the internet while you’re around to keep an eye on their activity
  6. Share an email address so you know who your child is communicating with online
  7. Bookmark their favorite sites and teach them how to find them there. This minimizes time spent ‘surfing’ the entire Internet and minimizes the chances of children accidently finding themselves on the wrong page
  8. Spend time together online and show by example how to safely and appropriately use the internet
  9. Teach kids not to click on ads or download anything from the internet without permission. Make sure your computer is protected against spyware and viruses.
  10. If your child is on social media, teach them how to do so safely. Keep an eye on who their ‘friends’ are so you know who has access to their profiles, teach them how to use all the privacy settings available and make sure they are not posting any personal information online.
  11. Monitor your credit cards and phone bills for unfamiliar account charges
  12. Find out what online protection is in place at day cares, friends’ homes, or anywhere else your child may be accessing the internet
  13. Remember that Internet technology is mobile. Make sure to monitor cell phones, gaming devices and lap tops.
  14. Take your child seriously if he or she reports any threatening, suspicious or uncomfortable online exchange
  15. Forward copies of these exchanges to your internet service provider or call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (800-843-5678) if you are aware or become aware of any suspicious or inappropriate online materials targeting or depicting children. Contact the FBI or local law enforcement if your child is ever targeted or threatened online.
  16. Be aware of warning signs such as: your child turning off the computer suddenly when you enter the room, withdrawal from family life, reluctancy to talk about online activity, long hours online- especially at night, phone calls from strangers or unsolicited gifts in the mail.

Sources and more information:
Kid’s Health Website
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has great resources on their website, including tip sheets and internet safety pledges for different ages.
FBI’s ‘Parent Guide to Internet Safety
Tips from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service 
Tips from the National Crime Prevention Council 

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