10 Tips for Kids’ Digital Safety this Summer
It’s summertime and the kids are home, either running amok with wild energy in the yard or showcasing their explosive summer energy inside. While there are many playdates, activities, art projects, vacations, sports, and planned family outings to be had, this is also the time of year where kids have more access to technology.
At ModSquad, we work with a number of clients to ensure the safety of their young audiences. For each client, we establish moderation policies and processes that suit their audiences, as well as take into consideration laws like COPPA. Given our background, we pulled together these digital safety tips to help your kids enjoy their tech time while you feel comfortable they’re doing so safely.
1. Kids’ Culture of Interactivity
Your child will want to connect with others via games, websites, and social media. Curiosity is great, but parental vigilance is essential. As adults, we still see things as “offline” and “online” activity. Children see it as one giant, interconnected world, and this is very important, as it explains the genuine logic today’s kids apply to digital platforms. If you show fear, distrust, or distaste for your child’s digital or social interactivity, you may create a rift between the rules you set and how your child behaves online when you’re not looking.
2. Oversharing and Caring
It’s hard for children to understand the concept of oversharing or the importance of privacy. Talk to your child about why it’s OK to talk about shared interests, but not OK to put themselves or others in danger by sharing private information.
3. No Seclusion
Tablets, mobile devices, and computers should be used and remain in family areas — living rooms, family rooms, kitchens, etc. — with regular foot traffic. Secluded digital usage creates secrecy and a feeling of entitlement with privacy.
4. Don’t Overreact
Your child yearns to learn, experience, and interact. If something happens that scares you, take a moment to think, step back, and try to understand the full situation. When you approach the subject with your child, be thoughtful with your concerns.
5. Minecraft and Similar Games
Remember that Minecraft is not designed explicitly for children; in fact, to create an account, you must confirm that you’re at least 13 years old. Shared servers and social play includes opportunities for chat, private messaging, user-created imagery, etc. that you may not agree with. Here at ModSquad we created Minecraft server for our kids and families to play on, providing an insulated realm in which to enjoy the game. Play with your child, be present, engaged, and cognizant of all activities.
6. Review, Review, Review
There are “secret” apps that hide messaging programs and photo vaults. They are disguised as calculators and other innocuous apps but are actually password-protected areas for users to hide content from prying eyes.
Click on all the apps your child has downloaded. If you don’t know what it is or feel unequipped to understand, search the apps on CommonSenseMedia.org.
7. APPlicable Warnings
Snapchat – This app is not for children. While photo-swapping may be fun with childlike filters, the app routinely showcases risque adult content from “Featured” marketing programs and paid sponsors. These are prominent and you cannot adjust or remove content from Vice, Cosmopolitan, MTV, etc.
Musical.ly – This app is fun and whimsical with a karaoke twist, allowing kids to record themselves lip-syncing or singing along to a popular song. I routinely receive complaints from parents whose children (particularly girls) experience cruelty, bullying, and mental stress as a result. Be aware.
YouTube – No matter how much your children love this platform, they are most likely exposed regularly to language, vicious comment trolls, adult themes, or suggestive behaviors. Often, skits or cartoons that seem to be intended for children are not. Further, because YouTube automatically populates suggestions of other videos to watch, even age-appropriate or parent-approved videos can lead children to less appropriate content that YouTube’s algorithm deems “related.”
Instagram – Kids of all ages learn to derive self-worth through how they are perceived on social media, especially visual platforms like Instagram. Through carefully curated Instagram photos and filters, they present a certain image of themselves, often based on what they see in celebrity and pop culture. In addition, your tween or teen may have a “finstagram,” or fake Instagram, a separate, private Instagram account on which they share content with only those they allow to follow them. When reviewing their social media and app activity, be sure to check for these types of hidden accounts.
8. Personal Exploration
Be aware that your child may explore their identity digitally, from gender to personality traits. It’s not uncommon for children, tweens, and teens to maintain multiple social media accounts that apply to different interests. Engage calmly and do not panic; this is exploration of curiosity. If your child’s personal exploration appears to be abusive towards others, react responsibly.
9. Use Digital Time Wisely!
While there’s an endless amount of digital content to suck up hours of your day — streaming video, games, apps, social media, etc. — there are also plenty of games for families to play together, or art projects and activities to download and experience offline.
10. Remember: It’s a Parental Choice
No doubt, you’ve seen the iconic “Keep Calm and Carry On” slogans. The biggest piece of advice for kids’ digital safety is: Keep Calm. Support and be vigilant. For all the instructions designed for parents wanting to keep up on digital safety, the best strategy is remaining present for your family.
NetFamilyNews is a great resource. They even have a Internet Contract, which can be very helpful in spearheading family conversations about safety, appropriate content and behaviors, and “netiquette.”
Additionally, The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) provides a wealth of resources for digital parents, including research, advice, videos, and guides to help you have meaningful conversations with your kids about online safety.
Sr. Director of Digital Strategy & Engagement