In some ways, having a mobile device gives kids as much freedom as having a car. Just as you remind your children to buckle up and obey the speed limit, there are certain steps you can take to make sure your child has a positive, safe experience when using mobile devices.
Keep a clean machine
You probably already nag your kids about cleaning their rooms or making their beds, but encouraging them to keep their Internet-enabled devices clean is important, too.
Make sure they have the latest security software, web browsers, operating system and the most recent version of apps installed, as these are the best defenses against malware and other online threats. Take the time to give all the mobile devices in your house the latest protections. This may require synching your device with a computer.
Connect with care when using Wi-Fi hotspots
Free Wi-Fi is an added perk in cafes, shopping malls and other teen- and kid-friendly hangouts. But using an unsecured hotspot (one that lets you connect without typing in a password) can put you at risk.
If you’re on an unsecured connection and enter personal information into an unencrypted site, other people on the network may see what you send and gain access to your personal information, contacts, photos, username and passwords.
Make sure your kids understand the risks of using public Wi-Fi. Teach them to look for “https://” at the beginning of web addresses (the “s” indicates that the site is secure and is taking extra precautions to protect user information) and limit the websites they visit and the personal information they divulge. Consider turning off features that allow a device to automatically connect to Wi-Fi. It’s also best to turn off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth services when you’re not using them.
Think before you app
Mobile parental controls are also available to monitor, filter, block content and prevent your child from downloading certain apps if you choose.
Protect personal information
Have an open conversation with your kids about privacy and teach them online critical thinking skills, such as the 3Ws: Who is asking for this information? What information are they requesting? Why are they asking for it?
Kids should know that they shouldn’t share personal information like their address, phone number, school name, parents’ employer, etc. If younger kids are playing games, make sure they don’t use any identifying information (real name, age, address, photo) in their avatars or profiles.
Raise good digital citizens
It’s easy to say things via text or online messaging that you would never say to someone’s face. Remind your kids to maintain the same level of courtesy online as they would in the real world. For instance, it’s a good idea to ask permission before posting photos or videos of someone else on social networking sites.
With these five tips, you and your child will be well on your way to using mobile technology responsibly.
Check out a complete parents' guide to kids and tech on Verizon's Family Tech page.