It’s that time of year – many of you may be thinking of purchasing your child(ren) their first or update their current, electronic device. You also may be thinking, or worrying, about internet and electronic device safety for both you and your child. In this digital world in which we live, there are numerous data breaches every year and reported issues of predatory behavior on children via apps or websites.
How can we keep ourselves and our children safe? I am fortunate to work for a company that values educating their staff on safe internet practices and safe uses of electronic devices. I am happy to share some of what I’ve learned in those sessions as well as the information I’ve learned while researching devices for my children.
How do I protect myself while online shopping?
- When perusing a website to buy holiday goodies, double-check the URL. Is there an “S” in the web address? Check for either “https” or “shttp” in the beginning. If you do not see the “S”, cancel the transaction; “S” means secure.
- Stick with retailers you are familiar with. Coupling bad customer service or low-quality products with holiday stress is no fun. Do yourself a favor and stick with companies you know who can provide great customer service and quality of products that are worthy of gifting to those you love.
- Do reverse google searches before you buy. Are you finding a potentially great deal on a product but have never heard of the company before? Research the company to ensure there are no scam claims against them. The Better Business Bureau is a great place to start.
- Do not save your credit card information on the company’s website. I know, having to get off the couch to get your wallet and finish a transaction is annoying but the convenience is not worth the risk of someone stealing your information. If you are saving your credit card information on the website for future purchases, you are trusting that company to have strong security to keep the bad guys out.
- Make a habit of frequently checking your bank account and credit card statements. See a transaction that looks suspicious? Call your bank or credit card company ASAP.
My child has an electronic device – now what?
If you are feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of apps, games, etc, that your child has access to via their electronic device, you are not alone. Thankfully, there are numerous ways to help you stay on top of your child’s electron device activity:
Resources for parents to stay on top of apps and web safety:
- Movie/TV reviews, apps/games reviews, book reviews:
What I like about the website – unbiased, independent experts, do not receive payment for their reviews. Parents can indicate the age of their child(ren) to receive age-appropriate recommendations for movies/tv shows/apps/games and books.
- Parental control and oversight (both for web surfing and/or apps):
What I like about the website – they provide concise but crucial details depicting if the recommended service or app is free, what the service or app is and describes how the service or app works.
What I like about the website – provides pros and cons to numerous monitoring apps and services including a comprehensive chart at the end to easily compare all the information mentioned within the article so you can choose the option that works best for you and your family.
Setting rules and expectations for electronic device use
As with many aspects of parenting, communication and clear expectations are crucial pieces for safety. If the gifts to your child(ren) are electronic in nature, be sure to discuss expectations of safety and expectations of use as conditions to their access to the device. Some recommendations are:
- Occasional device checks will be had by you, the parent, without advanced notice.
This may feel like an invasion of privacy, but you own the device, you pay for the device, and you are responsible for the safety of your child. You have the right to know how they are using the device and who they are communicating with.
- The modern-day “don’t talk to strangers” conversation.
This conversation will likely need to be had frequently. Scary stories are in the news on a regular basis of children and teenagers who go missing as a result of someone they “met” online. Your child should know not to engage in conversations with people they do not know and they should not be meeting anyone in person as a result of an online conversation.
- Devices should be charging in your room during the night – not your child’s room.
Let’s face it – children and teens often do the things they are not supposed to be doing during the night hours when mom and dad are blissfully sleeping. Keep those phones and tablets charging in your room during the night so your children and teens do not have access. And – bonus – not only from a safety perspective is this a good rule to enforce but it is also a good position from a health perspective. Encourage good sleep habits by not allowing your child to be distracted with their device when they should be getting the rest their minds and bodies need.
Yes, technology is rapidly changing and it can feel overwhelming to learn and understand internet and electronic device safety. The first step is engagement and hopefully, the high-level information provided can help you in your quest for knowledge.