Summer break is nearly upon us. Most parents think since their child is not in school, the online drama will calm down. Unfortunately, this is not the case. With less structured time, online issues ramp up. Increased screen time over the summer is also a significant issue. Here are some things to go over with your child to make it the safest and best summer break possible.
Revisit the Technology Contract
80% of parents have never discussed Internet safety with their child. Talking to thousands of parents every year, I have learned parents are not having this vital talk with their child because they do not know what to say. The number one safety factor in any child’s life is a parent that will speak to them about necessary, and sometimes tricky topics like Internet safety, bullying, drug use, vaping, etc. The Mobile Device and Internet Contract is a parent’s script to opening a meaningful conversation about cyber safety with their child. Read each point to them, and then ask them to share their thoughts about it. Ask open-ended questions like, “Why do you think this is a good idea,” or “what could happen if you let a stranger into your Instagram account?”
Use Screen Time Limits
Teens who spent more time on new media (screens) were more likely to report mental health issues than those who spent time on non-screen activities. A 2017 study found kids who spent three hours or more a day on smartphones or other electronic devices were 34% more likely to suffer at least one suicide-related outcome—including feeling hopeless or seriously considering suicide—than kids who used devices two hours a day or less. Among kids who used electronic devices five or more hours a day, 48% had at least one suicide-related outcome. We have to start taking screen time seriously. In a new set of guidelines, the World Health Organization said that infants under one year old should not be exposed to electronic screens and that children between the ages of 2 and four should not have more than one hour of “sedentary screen time” each day. Fortunately, both Apple and Android have remote-access capabilities, where parents can control their kids’ phones. Even better, they both generate reports so you can see exactly where they’re spending their time on their devices.
Read my article, “How to Set Up Parental Controls in iOS 12” to set up screen time limits on Apple devices, and this help doc for Android devices.
Set Parental Controls on All or Your Child’s Devices
My book, Parenting in the Digital World, will provide you with step-by-step instructions on setting parental and privacy controls on all of your child’s devices. This book will also give a full understanding of how to create a safe online environment for your family, including issues like online predators, pornography, viruses and malware, bullying, and more.
Install Parental Notification App on Your Child’s Device
Even with parental controls and screen time restrictions, your kids may still get into some hairy situations this summer. While part of it is just growing up, you’ll want to make sure that you’re there to help if they need you. Bark is a great family tool, and can help prompt important discussions about the things your kids are getting into on the internet.
Bark helps keep kids safe online, and by extension, in real life. It monitors text messages, emails, YouTube, and over two dozen social media platforms for signs of potential issues like cyberbullying, online predators, adult content, depression, acts of violence, and suicidal ideation. Bark will alert busy parents when issues arise, saving you time and providing peace of mind. Use cybersafetycop in the promo code when you sign up to get 15% your subscription.
Filter the Internet in Your Home
Use a reliable content filter on the Internet coming and going from your home. I recommend using OpenDNS. It is free for families to use. Your router may already have content filtering built into it. Make sure you are using something. Not only will you block inappropriate adult material from reaching your child’s device, but it will also block malicious websites that can infect your devices with viruses or malware.
Recruit Other Parents in Your Network to be Cyber Safety Conscious
When you are talking to your child about Internet safety and supervising their online activity, you are not only making your child safe, but you are also making every child in their social network safer. What if the parents of your child’s online friends were also supervising their online activity? Your child now has an additional layer of safety. This is one of the times the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” is true. You can recruit and educate parents by:
Share the free Cyber Safety Cop newsletter with your friends. Invite them to subscribe too.
Take your friends to a free parent seminar hosted at a nearby school. This seminar will change the way you look at your child’s digital world and give you a step-by-step game plan to make their children safe. If you would like to host a parent seminar at your school, fill out the contact form here to learn more.
Clayton Cranford is a retired Sergeant from Orange County Sheriff's Department in California and owner of Total Safety Solutions LLC. Clayton is one of the nation’s leading law enforcement educators on social media, child safety, and behavioral threat assessments. Clayton is the author of the definitive book on cyber safety for families, “Parenting in the Digital World.” Clayton has more than 20 years of teaching experience and was awarded the 2015 National Bullying Prevention Award from the School Safety Advocacy Council, and the 2015 American Legion Medal of Merit.
Clayton was a member of the County's Behavioral Threat Assessment Team, Crisis Negotiation Team, School Resource Officer program, and Juvenile Bureau.