Is your child safe online

Several years ago, one of the office supply stores launched a commercial that ran every July and August. A dad was pushing a cart in the store, with his 2 kids hanging over the sides, gleefully leaping and tossing pencils, paper, folders, and other back-to-school goodies into the cart while “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” plays in the background. Funny stuff! I know that I, for one, will feel a bit sad when our summer fun comes to a close.

As a computer guy, I’m probably more aware than most people of the many dangers present in our digital world. Today, BestMacs is launching a new series entitled Protect… We’ll provide tips, best practices, and guidance to keep you, your family, your systems, and your team safe.

I’m a dad who, probably like you, is fiercely protective of my kids. I cringe at the scrapes and bruises of childhood, even though I understand that they’re part of growing up. When I was a kid, the worst thing we had to worry about was a broken arm. Our kids, however, must contend with unscrupulous (and that’s being kind) people who hide behind their screens and keyboards with untoward motives. While I know that we can’t put a bubble around our kids and be with them 24/7, there are things we can do to protect them online.

Keep the Conversation Going

As soon as your kids accessing the internet, talk openly and honestly to them about the sites they visit, the things they’re doing, and the content they’re viewing. Take the time to periodically check their browser history. Even the most innocent searches can lead your kids down a rabbit hole into not-so-innocent places. Stress to your kids that you want them to talk to you if they end up somewhere they didn’t intend or on a site that made them feel uncomfortable and that they’re not in trouble when something like that happens. You are their first and best line of defense.

Keep control of your family’s digital footprint

Everything that goes into the digital space is public and accessible. Teach your kids to share pictures and private information only with people they (and you) know and trust and teach them to keep their location private. Even something as innocent as sharing a snapshot of your 16-year-old’s new driver’s license is unadvisable – their address is front and center for all the world to see. It’s hard to filter out life’s fun moments – I get it. But, holding back every personal detail from the world at large and only sharing them with your inner circle will keep you and your family safer.

Set Parental Controls

There are apps, embedded tools, and 3rd-party services that help keep your kids safe by restricting the places they can explore online and keeping you updated on their activities. Let your kids know the rules and why they’re in place, and be open about how you’ll monitor their history. Easily track the apps, sites, games, media, and time they’re using so you’re up-to-date on where and how they’re spending their time.

Practice Transparency

We Americans are all about respecting one another’s independence and right to privacy, which we graciously extend to our kids and strangers. Live and let live, right? When it comes to online safety, however, caution and safety overrule giving others the benefit of the doubt. Keep screens and devices in open areas where you can easily see what’s going on. Establish rules and expectations about when and where kids can access the digital space (bedrooms have doors – just sayin’). Become friends with their friends and monitor communication. Kids (and a lot of adults) can struggle to differentiate between people who are who they claim to be and those who aren’t.

The world is rapidly changing. We’re all learning as we go and doing the best we can to keep our kids safe. It’s a tough job, believe me, I know! Implementing sensible practices will help you (and your kids) sleep a little better at night. Please, please reach out to me or the BestMacs team if you have any questions. Keeping our kids safe is the #1 priority!