As children and teens become more tech-savvy, teaching them to protect sensitive information can be a tough task for parents. But even the youngest digital citizens can be taught not to give out personal data and the basics of staying safe online. And even adults can use reminders to help safeguard their online privacy.
A number of organizations encourage parents to develop an online safety contract to facilitate conversations with kids and teens about internet security and privacy, and advocate parents’ partnering with their kids to stay safe. According to the Family Online Safety Institute, “Online safety is a partnership, and it works better when parents and children are in it together.” The institute is among those offering downloadable contracts for parents and children to agree to. Some sites customize the contract for young children, older children and teens and even for parents. As children grow, parents may revisit and revise the contract as necessary.
Some of the most common tips found in such contracts are:
— Children promise to tell parents their usernames and passwords, but keep them private from others.
— Children promise not to divulge their personal information or that of their family with anyone online, including address, telephone number, age or school name, and pledge not to post that information to social media profiles – even if they don’t believe it can be seen by others.
— Children agree to tell their parents who they meet online, even if parents don’t ask, and pledge not to answer emails, messages or friend requests from people they don’t know and people their parents haven’t approved.
— Parents and children agree to set up rules for going online, including the length of time children and teens can be online and appropriate sites for them to visit.
— Children and teens agree to ask their parents before downloading or installing software or apps.
— Children and teens promise not to fill out questionnaires or forms online without parental permission.
— Children of any age agree not to buy products online or give out credit card or phone information without permission from parents.
— Parents pledge to get to know the services and web sites their children are using.
— Children and teens agree to review the privacy policies of any apps used.
The contract can also contain provisions for children and teens to treat others respectfully online and tell their parents about any content that makes them uncomfortable. It can also contain promises not to share personal devices and keep them password-protected.
In reviewing the contract, parents should explain to children and teens that the contract is meant to help them and keep them safe, not to limit them. Everyone should agree to the terms and sign the contract.
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