As the school year comes to a close, kids are going to discover they have a lot of free time on their hands. Chances are, a great deal of their time will be spent online. This summer, look at online safety and privacy as one component of an overall summer family plan. Mix online time with other activities to help kids and parents find a happy medium.

Here are some basic tips to stay safe:

  • Set limits and boundaries. Surprisingly, according to a recent study1 by Common Sense, a national nonprofit focused on family research and education, 52 percent of kids agree with their parents that they spend too much time on their internet-connected mobile devices. So, discuss with your children how much time they spend online and what websites they may visit. From there, commit to boundaries and responsibilities that everyone will be held to (even us adults).
  • Steer clear of the internet’s dark side. Just like any community, the internet has its fair share of bad guys. Make sure the family understands that nothing is truly temporary or anonymous online. Explain that it’s easy for people with bad intentions to use social media posts, photos or other online content in ways that are meant to hurt or embarrass. Talk frankly to your kids about what they post online. The National Cyber Security Alliance can help; view their Tips for Parents on Raising Privacy-Savvy Kids.
  • Don’t rule out parental controls. Even when the whole family is educated about the risks and expectations of the online world, there are some things you still may want to block or keep an eye on. Microsoft and Apple have impressive (and free) parental control features built in to their devices and software:
    • Microsoft (Windows and Xbox) offers a suite of features called Microsoft Family to help you protect your family with activity reporting, screen time limits, content restrictions and spending allowances for the Microsoft Store (movies, shows, games, etc.). Visit Microsoft Family for more information.
    • Apple (iOS, Mac and AppleTV) offers a range of parental controls and content restriction settings. More information can be found on Apple’s support website.

The National Cyber Security Alliance offers this general recommendation about making online safety a priority: Don’t let concerns about what might go wrong stand in the way of letting your family explore the vast virtual world. If we, the adults, are educated about risks and employ smart monitoring tools, our kids will be more likely to use technology safely and come to us for advice if they run into anything.