Raising kids in the Internet age is a new reality. You probably use the Internet and your children likely have access to it as well. While new technology can offer exciting and important opportunities for your kids, it’s essential that you do your research and know what your child is doing online. It can be easy for natural curiosity to take over if kids aren’t taught how to safely use the Internet.
Setting guidelines. You need to be involved in your child’s online experience, and you need to set what the expectations are for your family. It is important to relay that information to your child and to create an understanding that you will have full access to their phones, tablets and computers. The younger your child is, the more access you should have. Make sure that you have passwords to their devices and any applications (apps) or programs they use. You must also be able to recognize the different logos and symbols on your child’s devices, know what apps they link to and what those apps do. Consider implementing a rule where all devices connected to the Web must be used in a public area so you can monitor their activities.
Protecting personal information. Have a conversation with your child about what information is personal and why it’s important to protect it. Let them know the dangers of providing too much personal information and what could happen if a criminal was to gain access to their devices. An important step in protecting your child’s information is teaching them about the privacy settings on their devices and social media accounts. Make sure they know why it’s important to have private profiles and which apps are accessing their location data. Also discuss how to create a strong password for each account they create. The best passwords are a series of random words or a phrase that has meaning to you. Adding in numbers, upper and lowercase letters and symbols make passwords even harder for criminals to crack.
Don’t make it easy for criminals. Using public Wi-Fi, such as in a mall or coffee shop, can give other electronic devices using the same network access to your information. Always use a password-protected network when dealing with any personal information or financial transactions. If you have Wi-Fi at home, make sure you change the password given to you by your service provider, as these manufacturer passwords can be found online.
Safe social networking. There are many different social networks that exist today, and the most popular sites are constantly changing. As with the apps your kids use, make sure you know what each networking site is used for, what the minimum age of use is and how to set up appropriate privacy settings. In many cases, social networking sites state that users must be at least 13 years old. Social networking can be a positive outlet for your child; however, that may not always be the case and these age restrictions are in place for a reason.
If your child is using social networking, have open conversations with them about how they use it and whom they are talking to. Talk about the dangers of meeting people online and how users may not be the people they claim to be. Consider creating your own social networking accounts to connect with your children so you can see what they are posting online.
If your child is being bullied online, you should cease all contact with the bully, save the details of the interactions by taking screenshots and keep it for your reference. Depending on the situation, you may want to contact your Internet service provider and your child’s school to report the activity. If you believe a crime has been committed, it’s important to report it to the police immediately.
Reporting a crime. As a parent, you should be monitoring your child’s activity online and stepping in, if necessary. If a crime has been committed or you are unsure or just need more information, you should contact the Calgary Police Service by calling 403-266-1234. Things that police commonly investigate are repeated unwanted contact, threats, impersonation of a child and any suspicion of inappropriate contact from an adult.
It is also important for you to stay up-to-date on new and existing laws that may impact your child. In 2015, the Criminal Code of Canada was amended to include additional laws surrounding the distribution of intimate images, which has already helped protect many teens in the fight against cyber-bullying.
Roger Chaffin is the Chief of Police for the Calgary Police Service.
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