When it comes to technology, students are more connected than ever. But there also seems to be a serious disconnect between what kids and parents think about teens online activity.
A recent survey of online teens conducted for the Cybersecurity Alliance found that 6 of 10 students had created social media accounts without their parents knowledge. But only 28 percent of parents suspected their offspring had secret accounts.
This suggests a lot of parents are just plain oblivious of their kids’ online sneakiness. And other findings are equally troubling.
While two-thirds of parents expected their kids would report any online incident that made them uncomfortable, only one-third of students said they would report such incidents. And just under half of the teens said they’d seek their parents help for problems online compared to the 65 percent of moms and dads who expected their teens to share their online problems with them “most” or “all the time.”
This confusion between what teens and parents think about online conduct suggests that parents need to be more proactive in preparing their kids for the challenges of having access to the world through devices that fit in our pockets.
One strategy is to establish a history of discussing technology with you by racking as many positive interactions related to online life before your kids are faced with a crisis. The better they feel about talking to you about tech, the better chances they’ll reach out to you when they’re facing a real crisis.
What’s a better excuse to talk technology than when you’re send your kid back to school?
Here are few topics of discussion to consider before the first class begins.
- Parental controls
If you’re worried about the content your younger kids can see as they use the family PC, you can manage that through parental controls feature. This gives you a chance to explain that you want to protect them from inappropriate sites and strangers so you can feel confident about them having fun the web. But parental control doesn’t just have to be a negative. The power to control your kids’ time online, means you can also set up online reward time — such as an hour or two when homework is done.
Downloading an app to your mobile device could mean you’re inviting strangers to access your phone. Some apps may demand access to your kid’s camera, microphone, contacts and photos. Use the Application Privacy feature to go through your apps together to see what kind of permissions are being accessed. Reviewing privacy settings of social networking sites also provides a chance for your kids to ask questions or express concerns.
There are several apps your kids can use to make sure a mobile device’s data stays private, even if it gets lost. You can use Android’s locate, lock and wipe feature to help find a misplaced device or to delete all personal data in a worst case scenario. Make sure your kids know that connecting over “free Wi-Fi” can expose your data and possibly even your passwords to strangers. Avoid that by connecting via mobile networks or by using a VPN app. Also make sure that they lock their devices using an unguessable code.
- Security hygiene
Some parents need basic security reminders as badly as kids do, whether they’re just getting online or heading to university. So remind yourself and your kids to use strong unique passwords for all their most important accounts. Your passwords shouldn’t use any words from the dictionary or anything someone could guess by looking at your social media. Remind them that “free” online is almost always a bad sign. Don’t click on links and attachments in emails that you weren’t expecting. And remind your kids that anything they post online, even on sites that promise to delete things after twenty-four hours, could be seen by anyone — even your parents.
An open and honest conversation reduces chances that a uncomfortable situation online will become a crisis.
So before your kids go back to school, start talking about how important it is to you that they connect safely, especially when you’re not watching them.