Bringing Up the Next Generation of Digital Citizens

Nearly every automobile driver has some understanding of the ‘rules of the road,’ from using your seatbelt to signaling before changing lanes, and always giving pedestrians the right of way. But when asked about the rules of the Internet—don’t share passwords, don’t talk to strangers, and don’t download strange applications—not everyone is as familiar. As a parent of children (now young adults) who were the first generation of active social media users, I have seen this unfamiliarity firsthand.

Parents are faced with unique challenges today when it comes to protecting their children from the impressive volume of online dangers. This largely stems from kids’ unsupervised Internet access, inability of parents to monitor time spent online, or simply not wanting kids to miss out on the positive experiences the Internet can provide.

At McAfee , we conducted a study that asked some tough questions to better understand kids’ online behaviors, and what visibility parents actually have. Our global study, “The Realities of Cyber Parenting: What Pre-teens and Teens are Up To Online,” surveyed more than 17,000 children, ages 8 to 16, and their parents.

Roughly 84% of surveyed parents said they followed their children and their interactions online, and 89% find online safety education for their kids to be critical. Kids and teens also showed a similar concern for online safety and protection of their private information.

We found that more than half (55%) of preteen and teenage respondents believed that other people gaining access to personal information is the worst thing that can happen to them online. While protecting private information should certainly be a top concern, those surveyed seemed to have missed the mark on the variety of online threats within a click’s reach. As kids do not yet have the maturity level to fully understand consequences at hand, it is critical for parents to actively educate their teens on appropriate behavior online and monitor activities. The reality is, there are far more dangerous consequences to unsafe online behavior than unauthorized access to personal information, from malware infections to child identity theft.

Just as parents are responsible for teaching children how to behave in real world situations, they should be helping to instill good online habits. It is critical that parents take proper steps to educate their children on digital dangers, and best practices for online safety. In an age where online activities are more intertwined with everyday life, parents must know what their children are up to online, and how they can best guide them to surf and engage safely. After all, one errant social media post could follow someone for the rest of his or her life.

So, where do you start? Here are some tips for keeping your kids safe online:

  • Talk to your children. Engage casually and frequently with them about the online risks, and make sure the communication lines are open. Start this conversation as early in your children’s lives as possible, letting them know you will be supervising them online. Make sure your kids are aware that anything they post online does not have an expiration date, and that the Internet is forever.
  • Have access. Parents should have passwords for their children’s social media accounts, and passcodes to their devices for full access. This will help you keep tabs on your children’s online activities and help them to stay supervised and safe.
  • Make social networks private. Your child’s best protection is to keep their accounts private on every social platform they use. Consider investing in software that can monitor social networks across all devices such as McAfee LiveSafe.
  • Stay Knowledgeable. Stay one step ahead by taking the time to research the various platforms your kids use. Keep informed about the newest social networks. While you don’t have to create an account, it is important to understand how they work, and learn if your kids are on them.

And, of course, stay on top of the latest consumer and mobile security threats by following @McAfee_Home and me on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.

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