June is Internet Safety Month. Just in time for summer when kids have lots of extra downtime that often turns into online activity, ISM brings cyber safety into focus for children and teens. It also gives parents the opportunity to become cyber savvy and help their kids be safe online.
Even though things slow down this time of year, from kids’ pervasive access to mobile devices to their susceptibility to technology addiction, parents have many reasons to stay engaged in their kids’ online life during the summer months.
Whether on road trips or just hanging out on a regular, lazy summer day, children seem tethered to their mobile devices. According to the nonprofit Center for Cyber Safety and Education (CCSE), 90% of kids in 4th through 8th grades surveyed in their 2018 Children’s Internet Usage Study reported having a mobile device. Here are some other statistics from Influence Central’s research, Kids & Tech: The Evolution of Today’s Digital Natives, that parents should be aware of:
- On average, a child gets his/her first smartphone at 10.3 years old.
- Tablets have surged from 26% to 55% usage as kids’ device of choice during car rides. Smartphones trail at 45%.
- 39% of kids get a social media account at 11.4 years. 11% got a social media account when they were younger than 10.
- By age 12, 50% of all children have social media accounts ‒ primarily Facebook and Instagram.
Here are some things you can do to ensure your kids have safe, positive online experiences this summer:
- Understand how screen time impacts children’s brain development.
- Teach your kids to be responsible digital citizens. The CCSE’s Garfield Cyber Safety Adventures Digital Citizenship Program offers engaging lessons through cartoons, comic and activity books that help kids grasp and apply basic cyber safety principles like online privacy, safe posting, and cyberbullying. They can take quizzes and earn certifications of completion at the end of each lesson.
- If your kids are old enough to have social media accounts (the minimum age for common platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat is 13, as dictated by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)), friend them on social media. You’ll be able to see who they’re talking to, what they’re saying and who they’re friends are.
- Set limits on their screen time. Restrict internet use to a public area in your house. Make sure they turn in mobile devices at bedtime.
- Have your kids put the passwords to all their social media accounts, devices and email accounts in a sealed envelope. Keep it in a safe place. That way, you’re respecting their privacy but can access their accounts should an emergency arise.
- Consider delaying buying your child a smartphone. Bill Gates didn’t let his children get smartphones until they were 14. WaitUntil8th.org provides support to parents who want to wait at least until their kids reach 8th grade. When you do decide to buy one, consider having your kids sign a contract like this one that teaches them the responsibilities that come with having a cell phone.
- Watch for signs of technology addiction. According to CommonSense Media, 47% of parents feel their children are “addicted” to their mobile devices. Half of parents say they are at least “somewhat” concerned that their children’s mobile device use is negatively affecting their mental health; nearly one in five parents say they are “extremely” or “very” concerned.
Follow these tips and find your family well on its way to a fun, safe summer! You can find many other helpful cybersecurity resources on our website. We also invite you to follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.
Written by: Sarah Nicholas
Sarah is the Director of Communications for Serendipity Communications. She lives in Plainwell, Michigan with her husband, daughters and stepson, with twin stepdaughters nearby. She is passionate about cyber safety education for children and enjoys ballet dancing, reading and volunteering at her children’s school.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Ameris Bank does not endorse nor is affiliated with the companies listed in this article.