The question that tops this story was recently posed to a panel of security and parenting experts by safesoundfamily.com. One of those experts was none other than our own CEO, Todd Morris, who offered one of the many salient pieces of advice found in the article. Let’s take a look at his advice as well as some of the other experts’.
The most frequently cited recommendation for parents looking to keep their children safe online is to simply talk to them. Having an open dialogue about not only the technology kids are using, but how they’re using it, is essential to protecting them.
“Talk about the websites they go to, about how to avoid ads/enticements, about how to be polite to others when communicating online, about how to respond to personal questions from others, and generally all those things adults know about human relationships that kids don’t know yet,” said Aaron Harder, founder of Entropy Multimedia, Inc.
In addition to your children trusting you enough to tell you when they may be in danger online, some of the experts harped on teaching kids to rely on themselves as well.
“Teach them to trust their own judgement rather than rely entirely on technical solutions and conflicting ‘official’ information resources,” says David Hartley, an IT security consultant. “That sounds simple enough, but you also have to help direct them towards strategies for developing sound analysis and judgement, what educationalists call critical thinking.”
This recurring theme of “knowledge is power” permeated the whole article. Not only knowledge of what children are doing online, but also the technology that they’re using.
“You don’t need a Ph.D. in Internet technology to be a great cyber-parent,” says Donna Rice Hughes, President and CEO of Enough is Enough. “However, you do need to make a commitment to become familiar with the technology your children use and to stay current with Internet safety issues.”
In addition to educating yourself to the how and what of your children’s online activity, Hemanshu (Hemu) Nigam of SSP Blue, an online security consultancy, suggests that you have your children teach you about what they know about technology.
“Kids love to teach as much as they love to learn. Hold a technology learning class every week where you are the student and your child is the teacher,” he says, going on to enumerate topics your kids can cover in these classes.
Some of the suggestions in the piece were as simple as googling your child’s name once a month to keep abreast of what image they’re projecting to the public with their online presence.
Of course, being a tech-based company, BrickHouse Security and our CEO Todd Morris come out on the side of knowing what digital options are available for keeping children safe.
“Today, your 13-year-old could be texting sexually charged messages, communicating with potential predators or enduring online bullying while sitting next to you on the couch,” he writes. “It’s scary, but it’s a fact.”
“So what are your options?,” Morris continues. “There are plenty of easy-to-use technology solutions out there – simple, affordable ways to monitor your kids’ activity on their phones and computers, even after the communications have been deleted.”
Of course, there are larger implications to using this type of surveillance; a gray area that Morris recognizes.
“Only you can decide if these devices fit into your parenting philosophy, but many would argue that it’s not only within your rights as a caregiver to look into teen monitoring options, it’s also a moral imperative,” he says.
While there clearly is no one clear-cut solution to keeping kids safe online, this compilation serves as a greatest hits of the best ways to make sure not only that your kids feel comfortable having a dialogue with you about technology and their digital lives, but also other options that are available if that dialogue breaks down.