Did you know the average age of a cell phone user in North America is 11 years, and some users are as young as six? While there are many good reasons for your child to have a cell phone, it is increasingly more important that you teach your children how to be safe when using these devices.
And, what many parents tend to forget is that a cell phone today is more a computer than a phone. We need to create a generation of responsible digital citizens that make smart choices when online.
Online environments are public places, just like playgrounds or classrooms, and it is important to understand both the risks and advantages of visiting them before you run into trouble! These spaces aren’t nearly as private as you might assume, so we all need to be proactive to protect our safety and privacy.
The following are some basic ground rules to help kids stay safe online:
• Don’t give out personal information online without your parent’s permission. This includes your name, phone number, address, email address, school, picture, credit card information, etc.
• When online, use a pretend name or nickname that does not reveal anything about you. A good example of a username is something like ‘samtheman’. A bad example would be ‘sammy13’.
• When you create a password, make sure it is easy for you to remember but hard for others to guess. Do not tell anyone your password except for your parents.
• Do not open emails, pictures or games from people you do not know and trust.
• Do not send rude emails or threats to anyone.
• Don’t buy anything online without your parent’s permission.
• Make sure what you write is appropriate to post online.
• If you make posts or comments, always tell the truth.
• Remember that online work is not private and anyone can read it or see it. Once a picture, message or other information is sent, you can rarely retrieve it fully, nor can you control who receives it, or how long it will live online.
Digital citizenship is the principles of appropriate, responsible use of technology and it is a way to understand how to safely exist in a society filled with technology. Do your bit to ensure your children understand both the risks and benefits of living in an online world.
For more information about online safety, visit www.youthlinkcalgary.com.
Rick Hanson is the Chief of Police for the Calgary Police Service.
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