In our 21st century digital world, children begin at a very young age to use technology for learning and for play. Many contemporary devices, from iPads to computers to cell phones, can link to the Internet, and therefore to the world around them. This capability dramatically increases your children's access to learning resources, but it also opens doors to potential safety and privacy issues.
The staff in Hopkins Public Schools are committed to helping children stay safe online by teaching them how to research effectively, efficiently, and responsibly, and by reminding them to keep passwords and personal information private. Students are allowed to share materials and comments with one another electronically in protected environments such as Hopkins Apps and Moodle.
However, when children are away from school, you as parents have an important role to play in guiding and monitoring their online activities. Below is a list of general tips, followed by links to outside resources that provide a wealth of good suggestions for parents. If you ever have questions or concerns about online safety issues, please be sure to contact the Media Specialist at your child's school.
10 General Suggestions to Help Keep Your Kids Safe Online
1. Talk to your kids
Most experts say that the best way to protect your kids online is to talk to them, since most children rely on their parents when they want important information. Keep the lines of communication open about what they are doing online, both at school and at home. Use everyday opportunities—such as news stories about Internet scams or cyberbullying—to help start conversations with your kids.
2. Start early
As soon as your child is using a computer, a cell phone, or any mobile device, it's time to start talking to them about online behavior, safety, and security. Remind them about the importance of being respectful online, just as you do within your family. Ask questions; share thoughts; be patient.
3. Keep the computer in a visible location
An adult presence and monitoring—even from several feet away—can make a big difference in what your children do online. If they need to work on a computer that's in a more private setting, make it clear that you will be walking in and out of that room frequently.
4. Set rules for time online
Just as you set curfews for when your children need to be home at night, set a time limit for when they can be out in public via the Internet. Don't allow them to have laptops and cell phones in their bedrooms during the night when they might be tempted to surf or text rather than get important sleep. Charging devices overnight in an area you can monitor might be a solution.
5. Use security software
Anti-virus and anti-spyware software can protect your computer from viruses and theft of private information. Install protective software, and keep it up-to-date. Also learn about and use any security features on the regular programs installed on your computer.
6. Use secure passwords
Stress with your children the importance of using strong email passwords-—and keeping them private, even from their friends. (You should know your children's passwords, however; they may be needed in an emergency.)
7. Know what websites your kids are using
The "history" feature of web browsers stores the sites that have been visited. Learn how to check the history, and initiate conversations with your children about any questionable sites you find.
8. Remind them that what they post is permanent
Once something is posted online, it will exist forever, somewhere. Laptops and cell phones, and the messages and photos sent from them, may feel "private" to young people. Remind them that anything posted can be found and used by someone else. Those other people could include future employers, college admissions offices, and scholarship committees, in addition to identity thieves and stalkers. In other words, inappropriate language and photos could jeopardize their future. A good rule of thumb: if they wouldn't want Grandma to see it, they shouldn't post it!
9. Stress that personal information needs to stay private
It's risky for your children to post any confidential information such as their full name, their home address, their email address, their vacation plans--or those same details about any of their friends. They also should refrain from discussing (or sharing photos of) pranks, embarrassing moments, or illegal activites, and they should not use profanity, insensitive language, or slanderous remarks.
10. Establish policies and "contracts"
As a parent--and probably the person paying for the electronic devices and network access your children have at home--you can and should establish clear policies for their use. The Hopkins School District policy for proper use of electronic resources when children are at school is provided below. Also note the family contracts for Internet use and cell phone use developed by the Cyberbullying Research Center.