Children old enough to use the computer, cell phones or tablets to access the internet must be made aware of the various dangers discussed above. Here are some tips:
- Kids should never share internet passwords with anyone other than parents, experts say.
- If children are harassed or bullied through instant messaging features, or on social media. help them use the ‘block’ and ‘report’ feature to prevent the bully from contacting them.
- If a child keeps getting harassing emails, delete that email account and set up a new one. Remind your child to give the new email address only to family and a few trusted friends.
- Tell your child not to respond to rude or harassing emails, messages and postings. If the cyberbullying continues, report it the Communication, Forensic and Cybercrimes Unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. Keep a record of the emails as proof.
- Adhere to the age limits set forth by the various social networks. Do not set up accounts for underage children or allow them to do so.
- Ensure that your child sets his/her accounts to the maximum possible privacy levels allowed. This allows them to choose who can view their profiles.
- Explain that strangers who approach them online aren’t always who they say they are, so they should not engage with them at all.
- Tell them to talk to you or another adult in charge if anything makes them feel uncomfortable online, while gaming or when using their cell phone.
- Younger children should not join chat rooms or forums of any kind and teens must be taught not to divulge pictures and personal information (real name, age, address, phone number, email address) that could potentially be used to invite danger into their homes.
- Never, under any circumstance, arrange to physically meet someone you ‘met’ online.
- Whatever your child’s age, monitor his/her internet usage as much as possible.
- Install internet filtering software to block pornography sites from any computer your child has access to.
- Consider using filtering software that monitors and records instant messaging and chat room conversations, as well as websites visited.
- Consider keeping the computer in a common area in the house, instead of allowing young children to have sole access to it in their bedrooms. It is easier to monitor their online activities this way.
- Explain that even if your kids that nothing really ‘disappears’ from the internet, even if it is deleted. Others may have already screenshot embarrassing or incriminating photos or posts and saved them, only for them to reappear later on forums and websites.
- Tell your kids not to let anyone, even friends, take pictures or videos of them that could cause embarrassment or trouble online or offline.
NOTE: Parents, be careful about documenting your child’s life on social media, as you are exposing them to hundreds of people you don’t know. Making every detail of their lives ‘public record’ can expose them to predators both online and in the real world.