Keep your children safe online

(NC) -- Children grow up fast. Sometimes it feels like yesterday when junior just learned to crawl, and today he or she is going online to check out the latest homework assignment or chat with a friend through a new app.

While parents and caregivers may not be as tech savvy as young people today, there are certain things that we do know about how to stay safe in real life – and those same rules apply to life online. You don't have to know how to video-call, send a text, or chat online to know how to keep your children safe in our digital world.

Follow these tips:

Talk about safety and the unknown: Inform your child about the risks of opening emails or texts from senders they don't know, or what to do if a stranger contacts them. Discuss different scenarios and possible reactions. For example, if they get a text saying they should follow a link to collect a prize, tell your child to simply delete the message.

Make password protection a priority. Children need to understand that their online information will be better protected if they use passwords. They should use different passwords for different sites and they should change them regularly. Make passwords strong (eight characters or more and a variety of letters, numbers and special characters), and never share them with anyone.

• Choose usernames for games and accounts that don't reveal personal details about your child such as their location, what school they go to, their age or their full name.

• Check your anti-spy and anti-virus software. Make sure your computer is fully loaded and up to date with this protection. New laptops often come with anti-virus software on a trial basis. Be sure to renew it or install new software when the trial period ends.

• Make sure files and apps from the Internet are from a trusted source.

• Emphasize the importance of protecting mobile devices. The first thing anyone should do with a new mobile device is activate a passcode. Talk to your kids about this, and the importance of protecting the device itself. A device that gets into the wrong hands could result in videos or pictures being posted online by someone else in your child's name.

Remind kids that what they post on the Internet is not always private. Once something is posted online, you no longer have control over it. It can be forwarded, copied and pasted, manipulated, printed out or saved – it can remain online, in some form, potentially forever.

Teach your kids to think before they click. It can take only seconds to snap a photo and post it to the Internet, or to post a comment. But it can be nearly impossible to permanently delete that comment or photo once it's posted. They should only post things that they would be comfortable with the whole world seeing.

Protect while you connect. More information is available online at


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