Back to school and online safety

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By Ari Lazarus
FTC Consumer Education Specialist
August 22, 2019 – 4:00 p.m.

Now that summertime is quickly coming to an end, it’s back-to-school season. While you’re running around getting pencils, calculators and binders, remember something else on your back-to-school list: talking with your kids about online safety.

Yes, your kids are probably online all year long – especially since technology is literally in the palms of their hands. But during the school year they have even more places to connect: at the library, in the classroom, at home and especially on their phones.

But there’s good news: it’s easy to have these conversations, even if technology isn’t really your “thing.” Here are a few ways to make these conversations easy and painless.

  • Use everyday opportunities to talk to your kids about being online. For example, news stories about cyberbullying or texting while driving can spur a conversation about their experiences and how you expect them to behave.
  • Clearly communicate your expectations and how they apply in an online context. Sharing your values clearly can help your kids make smarter and more thoughtful decisions when they face tricky situations. For instance, be specific about what’s off-limits — and what you consider to be unacceptable behavior.
  • Resist the urge to rush through these conversations with your kids. Most kids need to hear information repeated, in small doses, for it to sink in. If you keep talking with your kids, your patience and persistence will pay off in the long run.
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Even if you find out your kid has done something inappropriate online, listen and consider their feelings. You may not have all the answers but being honest and receptive can go a long way.
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