By Alisa Taylor

Back to School brings new backpacks, paper, pens and electronic devices. Many kids will be receiving their first phone this school season and eagerly connecting with their friends after an exciting summer. Before parents provide their children with a device that can connect them to millions of people, it is important to lay some ground rules. Keeping your child safe online is not a one-size-fits-all approach and every family needs to do what works best for their circumstances. But, there are some basic guidelines that are important when allowing your child to first connect to the online world:

  1. Keep private information private. Birthdays, full names, addresses, phone numbers, even email addresses can lead to identity theft and fraud. Children are especially susceptible to identity theft because years can go by before the crime is actually discovered.
  2. Do not share your location. Social media and other location-based apps allow users to share their exact whereabouts. When kids do get their first phone, they are likely at an age when parents can leave them at home alone for a short time. Kids do not need to broadcast where they live, go to school and spend their time to the wrong people.
  3. Only allow people you know to friend/follow you. When your child receives a friend or follow request on social media, if they don’t know the person in real life, they should not accept the request online.
  4. Use privacy settings. Ensure accounts are set to private instead of open to the public. Some social media platforms default settings are public, so when creating a new profile, ensure your child’s profile is private and is not available for everyone to view.
  5. Be Kind. With the ability to be anonymous online, kids may feel braver to make a comment online they wouldn’t normally make in real life. Mean and hurtful comments have far reaching effects and if taken too far, can lead to criminal charges. Ensure your kids know that remarks made online should always be respectful and kind.

This last one is for parents! Stay involved. Once you hand over that device, you must stay involved and show genuine interest in your child’s online activities. Studies show that by establishing rules with respect to web activity, kids are less likely to engage in risky online behaviour. Keep those conversations going about what apps, games and social media they are interested in. Support your child as they explore the digital world and enable them to learn, create, and connect safely online.

Alisa is a former Criminal Intelligence Analyst and has worked in law enforcement for the last 15 years. She is passionate about keeping kids safe and kind online and ensuring they thrive in our digital world. When Alisa isn’t online, you might spot her in the YEG river valley with her dogs, husband, and daughter or escaping the city for a weekend of camping.  You can follow Alisa on her blog The Lotus Pageas well as on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

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