Have you had “the talk” with your kids yet? No, not that talk. I mean the “digital talk.” It’s not about the birds and the bees in our digital world, it’s about the bits and the bytes, and you need to have that talk with your kids about the same time you move the family computer out of your line of site, you give them their own tablet, or their first smartphone. There are just so many ways that kids can get themselves into trouble online, and once something is on the Internet, it’s there forever, so making sure your kids understand the risks and repercussions is critical to keeping them safe online. Here’s some things it’s good to cover with your kids. Some of it may be awkward, some even uncomfortable, but this is something you can’t count on the school system to do these topics justice.
No matter what, kids should never share their passwords (not even with their bae), write down their passwords, use the same passwords on multiple systems or networks, or let someone else see them type in their passwords. It’s not a matter of trust…they need to know this the same way they know not to talk to strangers or hitch-hike.
Kids these days have a very open view on sexuality and nudity, and seem to think nothing of doing things that would make their parents die of shame. The talk about what is and is not appropriate is critical to have, but that’s not what this is about. This is about making sure your kids understand that they understand that any picture they share can spread around the world in minutes, that nothing on the Internet is either temporary or anonymous, and in many cases, revealing images sent innocently can easily lead to criminal charges for child pornography, and those sorts of charges can follow someone around forever. Any device with a camera can be used for texting images, so don’t think that just because it’s not a smartphone, it’s probably harmless.
Kids don’t see the downloading of copyrighted material as criminal. Nothing was taken from the owner, no violence was committed, no breaking and entering or trespassing or even shoplifting was involved. Someone posted it, they downloaded it…what’s the problem? Digital piracy is not a victimless crime, and serious criminal charges and fines can result. Kids need to understand not only what is wrong, but how easily these crimes can be tracked back to them.
Kids need to understand where they can, and cannot, download software, and how to confirm downloads and use antivirus software to scan downloads. Don’t ever let a teenager use a computer that doesn’t have protection, but make sure they know why that is, or they will figure out how to disable the antivirus software because it won’t let them run some file they want.
Kids can be gullible…almost as gullible as adults. Your kids need to know what phishing messages are, and how to delete them. Make a game of it with your youngest kids. Have them look at your Junk Email folder and spot all the things that make it apparent a message is an attempt to phish them. By the time they are old enough to have their own email account (odds are good they got one on their own without you knowing it!) they will be able to identify and delete bogus emails.
If something seems wrong, say something
Just like your users at work, you need your kids to know they can come to you if anything seems wrong. Mistakes will happen so would you rather they tell you right away that they may have clicked something they shouldn’t have, or would you rather wait until your Internet connection is cut off because the home PC is spewing spam before you know something bad has happened? Your kids should feel comfortable coming to you with anything they are unsure of, so you can help to keep them safe online.
It’s not enough to creep on your kids’ Facebook accounts and check their web browser history. You need to equip them with the knowledge and understanding to be safe online, to know what is right from what is wrong, and to come to you whenever anything seems off. Have “the talk” today and make sure you prepare them for the best – and the worst – that the Internet offers.