Just one more week and the kids will be back in school! Gone are the days when all we needed to worry about were traditional back to school supplies like pens, paper, notebooks and erasers. Today’s kids are also going back armed with tablets, smartphones and laptops.
Our digital darlings most certainly have the opportunity to access more information than we did but they also run the risk of cyberbullying and stumbling across extremely inappropriate content.
So, before they go back to school, here’s a quick primer for parents of what’s online ⎯ the good, the bad and the really ugly.
How often do we say to our kids “Just Google it” when they ask us a question? But the problem is, one misspelled word or just a secondary meaning for something quite innocent and some seriously X-Rated stuff can pop up. Fortunately there’s a way to filter out explicit content from your Google searches.
With Google SafeSearch, sexually explicit images, videos and results that may link to explicit content get filtered out from your search results. To activate SafeSearch from the Google homepage, find the “Settings” button in the lower right hand corner and select “Search Settings.” You’ll see “SafeSearch filters” as the top result. Check this box to turn on SafeSearch and click “Save” at the bottom. You can also set SafeSearch for your phone browser, iPad or iPhone Google app, Android app, tablet, or Android TV.
Power Point is so yesterday. Now kids can use the app Explain Everything to create incredible presentations that come to life by including photos, PDF files, annotations, drawings and audio, all into a single slide. The app can be purchased for just $2.99 which is the best buy for something this robust I’ve seen in a long time. Not only will your teens be using this but you’ll want to play with it as well! For a video demonstration of what you can do with Explain Everything click here.
Let’s admit it – as parents we simply don’t understand why our kids do the things they do. When it comes to chat rooms and interacting with complete strangers, most of us can’t understand the allure. But trust me – not only are ‘tweens and teens taking that risk, new sites are coming out to make it easier and, most disturbingly, more dangerous.
One of the latest to crop up is Omegle. Your kids might tell you that it’s “just another chat site,” but it’s bad. The website itself describes it like this:
The Internet is full of cool people – Omegle lets you meet them. When you use Omegle, we pick someone else at random so you can have a one-on-one chat. Omegle (oh·meg·ull) is a great way to meet new friends. When you use Omegle, we pick someone else at random and let you talk one-on-one. To help you stay safe, chats are anonymous unless you tell someone who you are (not suggested!), and you can stop a chat at any time. Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful.
Just the kind of site I’d like my kids to be chatting with random strangers – especially when the home page looks like this:
Fortunately there are some great apps and programs that help educate and protect our kids.
The key to keeping your kids safe online is to teach them early. Privacy Camp is an app that helps kids learn about the importance of privacy, how to be safe online, and how to be good online citizens. Topics range from basic online safety tips to digital-sharing rules to big ideas about digital citizenship. It’s designed for kids 5-10 years old and is meant to be a source of information and a conversation starter, so plan to use it with them.
I don’t know of one parent who doesn’t get sick of seeing their ‘tween and teens face constantly buried in their phone. Now AT&T has created Smart Limits which allows parents to set limits on text, outbound calling, and cellular data use during specific times of the day, manage contacts, and view your child’s daily and weekly texting and calling activity. You also can set limits on the number of texts your child sends and receives each month, block up to 30 numbers from unwanted calls and texts, including 411 and create a trusted contact list of phone numbers for your child. Yes, kids will hate this but it’s awesome for parents!
Alison Jacobson is a Wilton resident and a national family safety expert also known as The Safety Mom. She regularly appears on Fox & Friends and other TV shows to discuss various safety issues.