As kids head back to school, the Better Business Bureau urges families to talk internet safety

Back to School

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With students across Rhode Island returning to the classroom, the Better Business Bureau says now’s the time for parents to talk with their kids about internet safety.

BBB’s Paula Fleming tells 12 News that, if the district provides the student with a computer to use, it’s important that they follow the guidelines set by the school when using the device.

“Technology is wonderful, but we have to make sure that the technology we’re using is secure and we know who we’re dealing with on the other end of that technology,” Fleming said.

The best thing a parent can do, Fleming said, is to review the guidelines with their children so they’re clear on the expectations.

“The schools clean these laptops … and you don’t want to just download anything on those devices,” she said.

Enabling parental controls can also be helpful, according to Fleming.

“Android iOS and web browsers often times offer built in features that allow parents to monitor their child’s online activities,” Fleming said.

When it comes to social media, Fleming said it’s important for parents to keep track of what their child is doing and who they’re talking with.

“It’s important that they realize that they shouldn’t be accepting just anyone on their social media accounts,” Fleming said.

When it comes to making a social media post, she advised students avoid tagging their locations.

“‘Geotagging,’ while it’s a great method to keep track of your child, I think it should be between the parent and the child and not necessarily the entire public,” Fleming said. “It’s very concerning, you just don’t know who’s looking at that information. If you have any young child and anyone can see exactly where they’re at any time, I don’t think it’s exactly safe.”

Just like adults, children also receive spam or junk emails, Fleming said, which means parents should teach them about phishing, ransomware and other online threats.

“Since they don’t have much experience online, this is an opportunity for parents to talk about [it],” she said.

Fleming also said it’s important to know what applications your kids are downloading. She said even if it’s a free application, it’s not always safe.

Here’s some additional internet safety resources from BBB:

  • Know about Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU)CARU’s self-regulatory program provides detailed guidance to children’s advertisers on how to deal sensitively and honestly with children’s issues. These guidelines include, but go beyond, the issues of truthfulness and accuracy to consider the uniquely impressionable and vulnerable child audience.
  • Know about COPPA. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act protects personal information of children under the age of 13 on websites and online services—including apps. COPPA requires those sites and services to notify parents and get their approval before they collect, use or disclose a child’s personal information. However, if your nine-year old tells Instagram they are 13 (the age requirement to use the app), he or she won’t be protected by this law.
  • Know about FOSI. The Family Online Safety Institute brings an international perspective to the potential risks, and harms as well as the rewards of our online lives. The Good Digital Parenting web portal is a great resource for families looking to educate online safety measures in the Internet age.
  • Read privacy policies together and understand privacy settings. Parents can have their children read the privacy policies and terms of use of any apps they want to use. There might be a little grumbling that the policies “are too long” or that “it takes too much time,” remind them of the importance of knowing what they are signing up for and insist that they are read. Then, take time to learn and understand the privacy settings on each of the apps and games. Less is more when it comes to sharing information.
  • Don’t share your location. Nearly every app automatically tracks a user’s location. From placing an online order for groceries or fast food to playing an online game, review the apps on all of your devices to see which ones are tracking your location. Then, if it’s not needed, look in the settings to see how to disable this feature. Advise a friend or family member to avoid geo-tagging their posts with their location. Why? For example, you don’t want to announce the fact your family is vacationing out of state while the house sits empty. A simple review of the geo-tagged post will reveal where you really are.
  • Use parental controls if necessary. Although the best way to keep a child’s online privacy safe is to teach them to manage it themselves, it doesn’t hurt to have their backs by using parental controls. Today Android, iOS, and most web browsers offer built-in features that allow parents to monitor their children’s online activities, but third-party apps are available as well. Research the option that works best. Follow through with the child the reasons why you’re monitoring their activities.
  • Share with care and remember, personal information is like money. What is posted online can last a lifetime: parents can teach children that any information they share online can easily be copied and is almost impossible to take back. Talk to them about who might see a post and how it might be perceived in the future, and show them how anything they do online can positively, or negatively, can impact other people. Sharing personal information can also give online thieves an idea of what login information or passwords might be used for banking accounts or other online accounts.

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