Sunday, June 12, 2016

Keeping Your Family Safe on the Internet


I am a member of the U.S. Cellular blogger Brigade, but all opinions are my own.

U.S. Cellular offers a FREE PRINTABLE Parent Child agreement to help you discuss safety of the Internet, cell phone usage, limits, and courtesy with your teen or tween.  You don't even need to be a U.S. Cellular customer to access this, although I have been for 10 years and highly recommend them. 

I think back and wonder what it would have been like to have today's technology when I was growing up.  In some ways, I am glad we didn't.  I was bullied in school, and I can't imagine how much worse it would have been if cyberbullying had existed.  Yet, I can't help but think of all the photos I missed out on by not having a phone with me, fishing around for coins so I could call my mother and let her know Drama Club practice had let out, and friendships that faded away because of time and disconnect.

One thing I am certain, though, is if I had a cell phone when I was 13, which is the average age kids receive one, my parents would have made sure I truly understood how to be safe with it.  My husband and I plan on foster / adopting, and before we even think of allowing a child a cell phone, we will sit down with them and go over U.S. Cellular's FREE parent child agreement.  I will also go over this with my child's school and teachers.
It is frightening to see the number of posts I have seen posted by educational institutions where students are holding a certificate with their first and last name, making it very easy to find out the name of the school, location, the child's teacher and more -- and all these posts are public!  This is even more important to me because as a potential foster parent, sometimes there are situations where a child needs, for their safety, to be protected from their own biological parents, and if information like this were to be posted it could especially endanger the life of a foster child as well as the normal risks of child predators.

There are so many things that kids (and adults) do online.  There's new apps that parents need to stay informed about.  Facebook tends to not be the hangout for teens anymore, it seems more to be Instagram and Snapchat.  There are so many reasons for young people to use the Internet -- from getting and researching homework assignments, communicating with others, reading books, watching movies, and binge watching TV shows.  (Okay, so I'm guilty of the last one myself.)

It's important for parents to be careful with their information as well.  I often see Facebook status "games" that ask a number of personal questions, such as where you were born, your first pet's name, etc.  Where else do you see questions like those?  Security codes for many of your banking sites.  While some of these "games" are innocent, but very careful about any cut, paste, and fill in the answer status updates you participate in.

I also encourage parents to discuss what should and shouldn't be posted online.  Identifying information including phone number, e-mail, where they are from, etc. should be taught to not give it out.  It's also important to let them know that the A/S/L question doesn't need to be answered.  (That stands for age, sex, location).

Also, talk to your children about hurtful comments.  I am in my 40s and just last week I was playing an online game and someone tried to bully me -- probably thinking I was much younger.  He got reported.  Of course, I didn't let it bother me, but I can see my 13 year old self caring what some stranger thought.   In the same way, teach your children not to post hurtful comments.  A friend's little sister who has a beautiful voice had a racially based comment on her Facebook page last week.  Ask your kids what it would feel like if they were on the receiving end of that comment.  It's always important to remind them there is a living person with feelings on the other end of that iPhone 6.

Photos are another thing to discuss with kids.  You need to talk to older teens about posting photos of them drinking and in other less than stellar situations.  There are colleges and employers who look at online profiles.  There should be nothing questionable on there, and they should not post photos of their friends in the same situations.  Tagging a photo of a place they are at currently lets others know where they are.  It's fun to share photos right away, but sometimes it's safer to wait a little while.  Photos can be photoshopped.  Anyone holding a sign of any kind can have that easily edited to say all kinds of horrible things.  While technically the copyright of a photo belongs to the person who took it, it's difficult and sometimes impossible to get photos taken off the Internet.  After my mother died, I had Facebook rule in my favor and remove some photos of my mother in ICU they deemed were "harassment to the family" but it took days to get that done, and the person who did it then blackmailed me, and the police told me that they wouldn't help me because it was photos and internet related before the blackmail started.  (Personally I didn't think it should matter what the reasoning was that it started, blackmail still should be illegal.)  So if I, in my 40s can have problems with photos from the Internet, just imagine the problems a teenager could get into!  A little education can go a long way and prevent things like this from happening.

Another great tool for parents is the NQ Family Guardian app is only $4.99 a month and it helps you monitor what your children are doing online.  They can even send you an alert at the press of a button if they are in trouble of find themselves in an uncomfortable situation.  (Think about it.  Many times they are concerned about saving face with their friends.  If they wanted out of a situation, you could have it prearranged they could alert you and they could even "argue" with you but you insist they have to come home now and you pick them up.)

Cell phones are here to stay.  I've been a U.S. Cellular customer for nine years now, and have enjoyed how they have helped me stay in touch with family and friends across the globe.  It's important everyone brush up on their Internet safety and that way time on phones can be fun and worry free!

And guess what?  I'm giving away a pair of U.S. Cellular branded earbuds.   This giveaway is open to those 18 and older living in the USA.  Ends June 19.  Winner has 48 hours to respond to winning e-mail or another winner will be picked.





26 comments:

  1. I think it is a good idea to talk to your kids about internet safety. For a while I had a program that blocked sites so they would not go to them.

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  2. Yes we have talked to our family about internet safety. We are very careful what we do on the internet Cathy Truman

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  3. Yes I have talked to my boys about Internet safety. It is so very important for our kids to know the dangers that can be just around the corner.

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  4. We have discussed internet safety, which is an important topic for all kids

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  5. Yes, we monitor our kids when they are online and have discussed internet safety with them.

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  6. I never thought of some of the things you mentioned! Thank you so much!!

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  7. I think it is a good idea to talk to your kids about internet safety.

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  8. Yes we have talked about Internet safety. The U.S.Cellular agreement you shared was very helpful.

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  9. My friends have had talks with their kids and some are struggling to keep them away from certain sites. I like the advice about bullying comments on the net.

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  10. I have talked to my kids about internet safety

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  11. I talk to my kids constantly about Internet safety

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  12. I talk to my kids constantly about Internet safety

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  13. The U.S. Cellular Parent Child Agreement is helpful

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  14. Yes, I talk to my kids about it on a regular basis.

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  15. I teach internet safety to my children, family members and other children in our neighborhood.

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  16. I do not have children at my house anymore, but when the grandchildren vivit we always have the "INTERNET" chat.

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  17. The agreement is helpful. My daughter is 14 almost 15 and we discuss internet safety and protocol constantly at our house. She is exposed to a wide variety of technology in school and outside of school. While I allow her her privacy, I am also her friend on social media sites and at this time have no issues with her as we have a pretty good relationship.

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  18. I think it's really important to talk to your kids about Internet safety. The U.S. Cellular Parent Child Agreement is definitely a helpful tool.

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  19. I talk to our daughters about internet safety a lot.

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  20. Yes, I have three teens still at home, so we have talked a lot about internet safety.

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  21. I don't have anyone else in my house. I try to stay as safe as I know how.

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  22. Internet safety is so important, and it's difficult to keep up with all the new stuff, but we have to do it to stay safe and keep our kids safe.

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  23. Yes my family and I have discussed the internet safety.

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  24. Yes, I have talked to my family about Internet safety, & do so regularly! I do find the U.S. Cellular Parent Child Agreement a helpful tool!

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  25. Such an important topic to discuss with your children. They have very little internet access yet here and we are sitting right next to them when they are on. I hate bullying. :(

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  26. THis is such an important subject. Thanks for sharing with us at Family Joy Blog Link Up party this week.

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