Yesterday, May 17th, was National Cyber Safety Awareness Day, a reminder to all of us busy parents that we need to be cyber-aware about what their children are doing online. And most of us aren’t. Shawn Marie Edgington, “Americas leading “Texpert” and cyberbullying prevention expert” wants to change that with her new book, “The Parent’s Guide to Texting, Facebook and Social Media,” and the One-Click Safety Series.
Since she discovered the her own daughter was being threatened by text and on Facebook, Edgington has been on a mission to help protect our kids against the dangers that exist on the wild, wild web, and wants every parent to know that no child is immune.
As Dr. Oz’s new Sharecare.com expert, she plans to provide her expertise to help both parents and teens get the advice they need. She is also the CEO of a National Insurance Brokerage where she provides risk management and guidance to clients across the country about the repercussions of inappropriate social media and harassment usage in the workplace.
In this guest post, Edgington offers important tips to help parents add cyber-safety awareness to their busy work+life fit.
For centuries, parents have been able to easily protect and guard their children… but with today’s technology, social networks and mobile messaging, it’s easier for predators and bullies to reach out and attack our children from anywhere and at anytime; silently and with ease.
Cyberbullying occurs when a minor uses technology to deliberately and repeatedly engage in hostile behavior to harm or threaten another minor, and is against the law.
- Almost half of our youth experience some form of online harassment (Cyberbullying Research Center)
- 71% of teens receive messages from strangers (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
- Over half of teens have engaged in cyberbullying (i-Safe)
Most teens don’t tell their parents what’s happening in their online world, which is why it’s critical that parents take a pro-active approach and become aware of how technology can be abused and talk to their kids about the dos and don’ts for using technology. When it comes to cyberbullying, prevention is critical.
Establish rules: If your teenager has a cell phone or access to the Internet or both, be sure to sit down with them and review the Rules of Engagement agreement for such use, and have them agree to your rules by signing the agreement.
Obey age restrictions: Obey age limitations set by social networks. Facebook requires users to be at least 13-years-old.
Sexting and Internet avoidance: If your young child has a cell phone, make sure that it can’t access the Internet. If their phone has a camera/video feature, contact your provider to disable their MMS service.
Invest in Smart Limits: This service allows parents to “set text boundaries, disable text service after bedtime, and control who can be blocked from sending texts, among other benefits.
Check privacy and security settings, guard passwords: Double check all of your child’s security settings to be sure they are all set to private and instruct your child to never share their passwords with anyone.
Know your child’s friends: Frequently monitor who your child is connected to. Be sure they are people that they know in real life, and people you trust.
Closely monitor Internet and cell phones: Keep the computer in a visible place, and spot check text messages, videos and photos.
Think before posting: Help your child manage their online image and reputation. Encourage your child to treat others online as they want to be treated in real life. It’s crucial they understand what’s posted on the Internet stays on the Internet forever.
Limit Personal Information: Be cautious about how much personal information your child posts. The more detailed the information, the easier it is for online predators, hackers, etc. to use their information to commit crimes.
Ignore/Block/Report: Show your child how to ignore, block and report people who aren’t being nice to them, whether in person, by text message or on the Internet. Help your child understand how important it is to not respond to any negative messages and to immediately report them to a trusted adult.
Contact the Authorities: The police take cyberbullying very seriously. If your child is ever physically threatened or contacted by a stranger, notify the police immediately.
Children lack the maturity and experience to deal with a difficult situation like being the target of a cyberbully. Children will look to a trusted adult to help them respond appropriately and get through difficult situations. Knowledge is power! If you are aware of what’s happening, you can get involved and facilitate change. Cyberbullying is a REAL threat to teens. Educate yourself and protect your children from the hazards of networking online or using their cell phones.
- Buy Shawn Edington’s Book The Parent’s Guide to Texting, Facebook and Social Media
- Follow Shawn on Twitter @DigitalWorld101
- Connect with Shawn on Facebook