Are Your Teens Cyber Safe

- | 67 Aha! comments | Posted in category: Family & Parenting

teen being cyber safe while chatting online on laptop

Are you, your kids, and teens cyber safe? Have you taken all the measures to ensure there is complete cyber safety when you or your loved ones are online?

To be cyber safe or to ensure that you as parents and caretakers provide online safety for yourself and your family, you need to take certain measures.

I hope most of you have already taken the necessary precautions to ensure that your family is safe online.

If not, please read through this post to know what measures you can take to ensure Internet safety for you and your family.

Though this post is for teens and kids, and their parents too, but I’m sure even you would find something of value in it if you want to learn more about cyber safety.

I’ve been reading so many cases about internet security issues with teens and adults that it scared me a little because my teens are also online, though with time limits set for them.

But are they really cyber safe? Are your teens cyber safe?

Just this little thought led me to research a little online about what all we can do to keep teens cyber safe. Here is what all I learnt, and hope you do too. Let’s start by understanding the meaning of cyber safety.

What is Cyber Safety

Cyber safety is often interchangeable with terms like “cybersafety”, “online safety”, “Internet security”, “online security”, and “cyber security”.

You can’t overlook the risk involved in using mobile phones, computers, and other electronic devices to access the Internet or other social media.

The breach of privacy often leads to unauthorized access to personal information, fraud, and identity theft, which is a major concern for you and your family. So, how cyber safe are you?

To keep yourself and your teens cyber safe, you need to know where the risk lies. It could be through –

  • Email
  • Banks and other financial institutions
  • Mobile
  • Downloading and file sharing
  • Social networks
  • Online shopping and auctions
  • Entertainment games and contests
  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
  • And many other places.

Being cyber safe is to avoid being disrespected, scammed, bullied, ripped off, or stalked while you are trying to surf online.

“But I’m acutely aware that the possibility of fraud is even more prevalent in today’s world because of the Internet and cell phones and the opportunity for instant communication with strangers.” ~ Armistead Maupin

The Australian government has a good Cybersmart site and it even has a cybersafety help button that you can download on your computer – check it out.

There’s even a National Cyber Security Awareness Week held each year to create awareness and educate people on how they can protect their personal information online. This year it’s being held from 20 to 24 May, 2013.

Does your government also provide such utilities to keep you cyber safe? Let me know in the comment section.

Why Do You Have to Be Cyber Safe

Although the Internet might be a source of useful information for your teens, but it isn’t always safe for them. Nor is it safe for you unless you don’t take precautions.

Your teens don’t have a switch ‘off’ mode in their brains, thus are rather impulsive. This behavior can often lead them towards illegal downloads, cyberbullying, inappropriate photo or video downloads, meeting strangers, and even cheating!

Understanding teenagers isn’t all that easy. They like to have their own way and would want to try out new things online. I see that a lot with my kids at times.

But as parents you have to keep teen’s cyber safe and make them aware of what goes on in the online world.

Teens often like to follow their elders or even friends, and when they see others posting their pictures online, they want to do the same.

My kids were like that too once upon a time. But because I don’t post my or my families pictures online, they too take care and do the same. They now understand the importance of cyber safety.

You need to teach your kids and teens to be cyber safe by teaching them to self-reflect before they go ahead and self-reveal. This would ensure their online experience is safer than it would be otherwise.

teen with laptop worried about being cyber safe

Tips For Teens to Keep Cyber Safe

You need to ensure that your teenagers are safe when they are surfing the Internet, and there is complete cyber safety for them. Here are some tips for teens to keep cyber safe –

1- Whenever you are online, always use a strong password, which should be a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Don’t use the name of your favorite food, pet, or friend.

Also, never share or tell your password to anyone, even if it’s a friend you trust, and don’t forget to keep changing your password often.

2- Always think before you send or say anything online. Take care as to how the recipient may feel.

3- Never believe everything you read, and before you do that, make sure it’s coming from a reliable source.

4- Don’t try and hide yourself behind a computer screen. Conduct yourself online, as you would offline. Remember if you feel you shouldn’t say it boldly enough, don’t say it at all!

5- Never disclose any private information over the Internet, or through your mobile phones about yourself, your family, friends, or anyone else you may know.

Don’t disclose your address, phone number, your full name, or any other personal detail in chat rooms, forums, and social networking sites. And never use any ‘flirty’ or ‘suggestive’ log in names.

6- Tell your friends to seek your permission before tagging or uploading your photo on their social networking profiles.

7- Don’t click on links that come embedded in emails. Instead, type the URL into the browser and open the page from there.

8- Don’t buy anything online without your parents’ permission because sometimes ads may try to trick you by offering your free stuff or mentioning that you’ve won something just to collect your personal information.

9- Accept friend requests only from people you know. Even if it’s a friend of a friend, it’s not advisable to add them to your friend list unless you actually know them.

10- Never use illegal or inappropriate content anywhere on the Internet, nor forward any images or photos that contain nudity. Always think before you post or text as your words can damage your reputation and impact your future.

Remember, anything you post online today may remain online for years to come. So, make sure what you post isn’t something you regret later.

11- Never meet anyone face-to-face whom you have met online. Seek permission from your parents before doing so, if at all.

12- Always ensure that your social networking profile is set to private, which you can do by checking your security settings.

13- Take your parents into confidence and tell them openly about the websites you visit – there’s no harm, is there?

Share your knowledge with them and make it a family fun time activity, sometimes at least.  This would make them less suspicious about you socializing online too.

14- If you do come across a case of online stealing, computer hacking, or any such illegal activity, you can report what you saw at ic3.gov.

Similarly, for any activity involving someone sending you nude photos, or sexual messages, or asking you to do sexual things, go to cybertipline.com.

15- You might even like to check out Google’s safety center that has a nice video about staying clear of cyber tricks.

16- Most importantly, always log out from your personal accounts because you don’t want to leave any doors open for hackers or other people with bad intentions to enter your accounts and steal your information or pictures.

“The internet has been a boon and a curse for teenagers.” ~ J. K. Rowling

Your teenagers have their own mood swings and like to do as they please, just like mine! Most of them are always checking their friends’ updates, or posting their own.

Or else they upload photos, videos, play games, video chat or chatting on IM, explore or discover interests, and love to access and absorb information that they like.

As parents, you need to ensure your teens are cyber safe because their online presence and interactions might affect their future.

Their reputation, privacy, and sometimes even their physical safety could be at risk.

Have a look this video which is all about ensuring how you, your teens, and family can remain cyber safe.

Internet Safety Tips for Teens and Parents ~ You Tube Video

You need to make sure that your kids are safe online. See how you can do that below.

Tips For Parents to Keep Teens Cyber Safe

Just as the above mentioned tips were for teens, I just thought to mention a few tips that parents can use to ensure there is complete cyber safety for their kids and teens too.

  • Talk openly with your children about how they should use the Internet and the dangers present online.
  • Let your teens surf the Internet by placing their laptop or computer in an open living area, and not in their own room.
  • To prevent misuse, learn about the security software that are available and install them on your computer or laptop.
  • Don’t ban the Internet for your kids and teens, instead, restrict the time they are allowed online.
  • Use the ‘History’ button in the browser program to keep track on the website that your child visits. It’s always good to keep a check off and on.
  • Don’t allow them to surf late night, and keep a check where all they have an access – school, Internet cafes, library, and other friends’ house. Find out if these places have any Internet policy and whether they are cybersafe.
  • If you have a wireless connection in the house, don’t forget to turn it off when not in use, especially when you sleep at night.
  • Explain to your kids and teens about the kind of information they are allowed, and not allowed to share online.
  • Inquire from your child if any of their friends are having issues with Facebook abuse or similar cases elsewhere.
  • Openly discuss about some incidents you know that might’ve happened to children who were unaware of cyber safety.
  • As parents you must be aware of cyber bullying, cyber stalking, and identity theft and the affect it has on your kids of any age. Tell your teens about how instant emails, messages, along with images can sometimes cause embarrassment and a threat. These messages can easily be forwarded by twisting their meaning and can cause distress to the sender and recipient. Tell them about how women and girls are usually the victims and are harassed, and sometimes it all starts with online friendships.
  • It’s good to keep a check, so join the same network as your teen and follow their activity.
  • Encourage and praise your children when they come to you with their queries, and answer truthfully to the best of your knowledge.
  • Lay out clear rules your children have to follow for being online, and mention the consequences if they don’t keep up with those.
  • Reassure your teens that they can come to you with any of their problems without the fear of losing their laptops or their Internet access.
  • If your child is bullied, tell him/her to tell you about it immediately. Stop him/her from replying to the bully, and then block such people. Tell him/her to tell you all of it and plan out what’s to be done next.
  • Keep screenshots of any nasty comments if your teen shows them to you.
  • Tell your kids to be aware of spam links that might come in their email, which could contain a computer virus or even sexual content.
  • Ensure that your teen’s email account has the spam filters switched on. Their accounts should be at such a setting that it won’t lead strangers to them.
  • Remind your child that people don’t always tell the truth online, and if someone says he or she is 15 years, he or she might be a 30 yr old person. So, don’t take anything at face value.
  • Set limits to the number of download, or all that they can download, depending on their age and content.
  • Make your kids and teens CyberSmart, and do check out another good site that helps to make the Internet safer for your children and teens.
  • To keep your family and teens cyber safe you could use web filtering products that you find online. Two of such products that are the easiest to set up and configure for home use are K9 Web Protection solutions and OpenDNS FamilyShield.

“The Internet is just bringing all kinds of information into the home. There’s just a lot of distraction, a lot of competition for the parent’s voice to resonate in the children’s ears.” ~ Phil McGraw

Remember, just as you learn to stay safe when you leave your home in the real world, you also need to stay safe online or in your virtual world.

Your online safety lies in your hands. Take care before things get out of hand 🙂

Over to you

Had/have you taken all the required measures for Internet security? What steps have you taken to ensure cyber safety for yourself and your family? Are your teens cyber safe? Share with me in the comments below.

 

Photo Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos, 123RFphotostock



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67 Comments - Read and share thoughts

  1. Martha Lockie

    May 16, 2014 at 2:18 am

    Fantastic post about a timely subject. I don’t think most parents understand the relationship to social media and drinking or experimenting with drugs. The research is staggering.

    Thanks for bringing this issue up, Harleena!

  2. Harleena Singh

    May 27, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Hi Rudraksh – nice to have you back after long 🙂

    Absolutely! Being cyber safe is important, not just for us, but for our kids, teens, and family as well.

    Nice to know that you are careful when you are online, or perhaps you’re a blogger and have read much about it, as compared to other teens who aren’t aware of cyber attacks and hackers. Good that you are taking care of your cousins, and I’m sure they would appreciate your efforts when they grow up.

    Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. Rudraksh Pathak

    May 25, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Hey Harleena,

    Cyber security is one of the major issue for parents now a days. Although I’m not that much older. I’m also a teenager but I’m quite responsible. Even I take care of all of my cousins to keep them safe from all that dangerous stuff on internet. Worth reading this article. Thank you mam.

    Rudrksh Pathak

  4. Rebecca

    May 24, 2013 at 8:40 pm

    I agree with Rahul, trust will make things easier and safer. Although kids are instinctively curious and providing them an access to internet comes with a great responsibility. It is hard to limit their access because of the proliferation of smartphone that can easily access the web. Predators are lurking online and are always on the lookout for minor victims. PC should be placed on the living room so parents can see what their kids are up to when browsing the internet. Cell phone should be simpler like Nokia phones, or Just5 phones to limit their access. Or if they own a smartphone, it should be taken from them once they are home, strict rule like not allowing them to use their phone unmonitored or in their bedroom may also be helpful.

    • Rahul

      May 27, 2013 at 11:45 am

      That sounds perfect but it is practically impossible. You can’t restrict your kid’s to that level. Sometimes it’s so frustrating because you know something is wrong but you just can’t stop it.
      I am not a father but a brother to an 18 year old boy. And believe me it’s not an easy task to take his cellphone away from him.

      • Harleena Singh

        May 27, 2013 at 2:37 pm

        I guess starting to parent your children from the time they are young helps here. Oh yes…at that age it’s not easy to take their cell phone away, but you could stop them from using the Internet through that and choose the normal computer for that, or limit the amount they are allowed each month for chats. Solutions also we alone have to find.

        Thanks 🙂

    • Harleena Singh

      May 27, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      Hi Rebecca,

      Trust from both sides does make things easier, but that only develops with time 🙂

      I agree with that, and it’s not just smartphones, but so many other gadgets and things online that kids and teens are open to nowadays, all thanks to the advancement in technology.

      Predators are on the lookout for anyone, young or old, thought the young ones are caught because they are innocent and not taught to be cyber safe. Yes, placing the computer in a common living area works best, and this should be followed by most parents, till they begin trusting their kids or till their teens grow up.

      We restrict the time limit when our kids use their phones, and we haven’t given then Internet access through it either. They really don’t use their cell phones much, and I’m glad they don’t, except to call their friends or receive their calls, or then music and play games (not online ones!)

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  5. Carolyn

    May 24, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Hi Harleena, This is great information.

    I have been asked to speak at our local school board on a similar topic so thanks for doing the research for me! It’s so important for parents to monitor their kids’ social networks. That can be the earliest sign of trouble. Kids may intend for a post or photo to be innocent but suddenly words or images are taken the wrong way.

    My younger daughters have told me of a girl in their school who likes to take embarrassing photos of her friends and put them on Instagram. Not good. She may think it’s funny but others are getting their feelings hurt. The mom says, “Oh, I don’t understand this stuff,” which is like saying, “I don’t understand drugs so I am not going to deal with my daughter smoking pot.”

    I was in the #dadchat Twitter chat last night and someone compared the Internet to being in a big city. Yes, there are safe places in the city and there are unsafe places. It’s up to you to know where is unsafe and protect your kids from going there.

    A pet peeve of mine is when parents let their teens on Twitter. Parents don’t realize that Twitter is open to the world, it’s not like Facebook which is restricted to friends. Yes, you can lock a Twitter account to friends but that is very rare.

    Universities and employers look at social media accounts so what your kid says online may have implications for a lifetime.

    Harleena, I really like how you structured this article, writing to both teens and parents. I am going to show this to my girls. They understand the need for safety but they will respect hearing it from you as well as from me.

    Thanks so much for this very important message!

    • Harleena Singh

      May 27, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      Hi Carolyn,

      Glad you liked the information share here 🙂

      Ah…that’s such a lovely co-incidence I would say! And it would be great if you could share something from this post at the local school board – wish you the best for it. You could also include OpenDNS as Mayura just mentioned it in his comments above, something that I wasn’t aware of, if you didn’t know about it earlier. I guess all the information used seems to always fall less where being cyber safe is concerned – isn’t it?

      Your are so right, and in most of the cases kids and teens put up posts or their pictures with friends in a very innocent way, just for sharing between friends. But who is to know how they are taken, twisted, and forwarded all over. We just need to be so very careful with our kids and ensure all their social media profiles are set to private, or shared with just a few limited family and friends. Speaking of which, we just don’t share our pictures, and seeing that even our kids don’t share theirs – better to play safe rather than regret later I guess 🙂

      Ah…how can parents, or the Mom of that girl act this way, especially once she knows what her daughter is doing! She surely needs to be checked for this, or perhaps the school authorities can do something about it. Not to mention, putting the pictures on Instagram means you are allowing and wanting the whole world to see it, and she’s obviously doing this because she knows her parents don’t care, of won’t say anything to her.

      Yes indeed, the Internet is a huge city and there are many unsafe places here for sure. We need to protect our kids, and even ourselves from going there. I feel kids and teens are more vulnerable at their age and want to explore the forbidden places too. However, being parents we need to ensure that we educate our kids about the Internet before allowing them to be online.

      Ah…my kids haven’t been told about Twitter as yet by me, nor do they have many friends there. They are all happy just being on Facebook at the moment and l’m glad they are online for a very short period of time, under supervision, and just once or twice a week – if at all. But yes, I get your point about how every tweet made is public and it really doesn’t work like Facebook there.

      Yes indeed, universities, employers, and even their prospective life partners I’d say – everyone is going to see their profiles one day, and it does make sense to keep hold of what they share and do online.

      I’m glad you liked this post, and I hope your girls like it and can learn something from it too, though I know with a careful and a much more net-savvy Mom, they are in safe hands. But yes, as you mentioned, which I also feel my kids do – is listen better when it comes from someone else, rather than their own parents 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by and adding much more to the post through your experiences. 🙂

  6. Rahul

    May 22, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    You have said it all, Harleena. But real problem is that you can’t follow your children everywhere. On some some point you have no other option instead of believing what they tell you.

    So I think main factor here is trust. They must trust you and vice versa. That is the way things work. 🙂

    • Harleena Singh

      May 27, 2013 at 11:27 am

      Hi Rahul,

      I agree with you there – yes we cannot follow our kids everywhere, but we can ensure that we instill strong values in our kids in such a way that even when they are away from us, they do the right thing, without us having to keep an eye on them 🙂

      Parents believe their children, but sometimes kids and teens take advantage of their honesty. Yes, if there is trust everything is good and smooth. However, kids and teens often prefer doing what they like to do or don’t like to listen to their parents, and that creates problems.

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  7. Adrienne

    May 22, 2013 at 6:23 am

    It’s been a number of years ago Harleena but back with MySpace was really popular, I friended my niece and nephew. I soon learned that they were sharing way too much information about themselves online and of course I told their parents. They didn’t even know they had an account. I always worried about my niece with the child predators that are everywhere.

    Most of the things that we know online really relates to kids today but so many of them think that nothing will ever happen to them. I just hope that most parents will take your advice here and make sure that they are protected online as well.

    Really great tips you shared here Harleena and as always, fantastic advice for parents that aren’t aware of how easily kids can be hurt even online.

    ~Adrienne

    • Harleena Singh

      May 27, 2013 at 11:22 am

      Hi Adrienne,

      That’s sounds so surprising! But yes, such things are known to occur, speaking of which I also didn’t know I had an account on Orkut years back, though later learnt how that happened.

      Your’e right, with so much that happens online, we need to be very careful about all that we, or our kids share online. There are hackers and predators all over, and if we can remain cyber safe in all of this, we are lucky I’d say.

      Kids and teens nowadays tend to think they know it all, and at times it becomes tough to reason with them or explain them not to do certain things. Reminds me of how good we were as teens (at least that’s what we think!) – as compared to the teens nowadays. Not that they’re bad, but the listening skills aren’t all that good I’d say.

      I also hope that parents take note of these tips to keep themselves, and their kids safe online. Taking timely measures and precautions is always better, rather than to sit and regret about it all later – isn’t it?

      Thanks for stopping by and adding more value to the post. Hope you are having a nice weekend too 🙂




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Are Your Teens Cyber Safe

by Harleena Singh time to read: 9 min