back to school tech_sm

The back-to-school talk all kids need

When our kids go back to school we get school supplies so they have what they need for the school day. There’s one thing, however, your child needs that was not on any back-to-school list: a talk about online safety.

Did I just hear an eye roll? I feel like I did—but really, it’s important and worth a dinner table/in the car on the way to practice/bedtime discussion.

Kids young and old always think they know everything they need to know about technology—after all, if they have a smart phone or access to their own tablet or computer, they literally have it in the palm of their hands all day long.

But, even if your child knows how to use the latest gadgets, they don’t always have the skills to think critically about that they’re seeing, saying, or doing online.

To help you get over the awkwardness of having this conversation, the Federal Trade Commission offers the following tips:

  • Use everyday opportunities to talk to your kids about being online. For example, news stories about cyberbullying or texting while driving can spur a conversation about their experiences and how you expect them to behave.
  • Clearly communicate your expectations and how they apply in an online context. Sharing your values clearly can help your kids make smarter and more thoughtful decisions when they face tricky situations. For instance, be specific about what’s off-limits — and what you consider to be unacceptable behavior.
  • Resist the urge to rush through these conversations with your kids. Most kids need to hear information repeated, in small doses, for it to sink in. If you keep talking with your kids, your patience and persistence will pay off in the long run.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Even if you find out your kid has done something inappropriate online, listen and consider their feelings. You may not have all the answers but being honest and receptive can go a long way.

The takeaway should be that it’s not about giving your child one, long, painful-for-all, lecture. Instead it’s about grabbing moments and using them as an excuse to help teach your child what they need to know.

Speaking of what they need to know, consider working in these four online security basics from the National Cyber Security Alliance into your conversations:

  • Personal information is like money. Value it and protect it. And I will add: don’t spend it all in one place because it puts you at risk for scams.
  • Share with care. Think before posting about yourself and others online. Consider what it reveals, who might see it, and how it could be perceived in the future.
  • Own your online presence. Set the privacy and security settings on websites and apps to your comfort level for information sharing and encourage your child to follow your lead. This author says: teach them how to adjust the settings if needed, or ask them for help adjusting yours.
  • Lock down your login. Your usernames and passwords are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking, and social media. Strengthen online accounts and use strong authentication tools.

You can do it! Even if there are moments of awkward, teaching your child to be safe and good online citizen is totally worth it. And, someday—if you’re lucky—your kids might even thank you :-).

For more tips on talking with your kids about online safety, visit FTC.gov/KidsOnline.

About Missy Kellor

Missy works on the Corporate Communications team and reports stories to TDS employees and customers. This is right up her alley because she’s an extrovert and also a big fan of research (really, she’ll look up just about anything that strikes her interest). Missy is a native of Madison, Wis. with an undergraduate in Anthropology and a master’s degree in Life Sciences Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interest in the Internet as a mass media shaped her work towards a PhD in Journalism and Mass Communications. She’s also worked as an editorial assistant, copywriter, and production artist. In her off hours, Missy is a crafter, Pinterest addict, reader, wife, and mom of two kids. You can find Missy on G+ and on Twitter.
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