In 2017, 92 percent of Americans used the internet, with 77 percent of us going online every day. We’re no longer just connected at work. We’re connected at home, in our car and when we walk down the street. Our kids are also connected. A recent Pew study found that 95 percent of teens have access to a smartphone, with 45 percent saying they are online ‘almost constantly.’
The increased use of smartphones, social media and connected toys comes with increased vulnerability. October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and we are proud to support the National Cyber Security Alliance as a 2018 Champion. This annual awareness campaign encourages individuals and businesses to take action towards protecting themselves from cyber threats. This week we’re focusing on making our homes safe internet havens and keeping our families protected.
Supporting parents to lead the way
Our nonprofit partner ConnectSafely is on a mission to help users get the most from their technology while managing the risks. As the leader of Safer Internet Day, the nonprofit provides internet safety tips ranging from safe passwords and how to avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi at the mall, to advice on sextortion and revenge porn.
According to Maureen Kochan, Vice President and COO of ConnectSafely, “We’re continuously redefining what social media is.” While her son never asked for an social media account, he wanted to play Roblox, which brands itself as a ‘massive multiplayer game’, at 8 years old. “Many of these Xbox and PlayStation games that our kids use early on provide a place to socialize virtually and we need to be equipping them with the same online safety skills we do for other types of social media.”
Maureen is encouraged by the tech companies joining with NGOs and advocates to provide parents with resources for digital safety. She points to Instagram’s new parent guide as an example, which includes guidelines for responsible sharing and tools for parents to understand and manage how much time teens spend on the app. For apps and services without their own guides, Connect Safely provides parents and educators with numerous resources (yes, there is even a parent guide for Roblox!).
We also partner with National PTA to give parents and caregivers resources to help children learn to use the internet safely and responsibly while supporting their education. We worked with National PTA to create The Smart Talk, an online tool that helps parents empower their children to become smart digital citizens. The Smart Talk walks families through a series of guided questions to establish a digital safety conversation, which then creates a personalized agreement based on their answers. Once their agreement is complete, families can print it off, sign it and hang it on the fridge so everyone remembers the ground rules.
Collin Robinson, a National PTA Board Member and father of two, has had The Smart Talk with both of his kids, adding, “The Smart Talk stayed on our fridge for many years.” In his new role as a PTA Connected Ambassador, Collin is tasked with deepening the understanding and knowledge of parents, families and teachers about digital safety tools and resources, and mobilizing local PTAs, schools, and communities to engage families around best practices.
As part of our support as the presenting and founding sponsor of PTA Connected, 25 local PTAs will receive grants to host a Safer Internet Day event. Collin continues to follow PTA guidelines and revisits safe internet usage conversations with his kids every 6-12 months.
"These conversations aren’t ‘one and done’ because everything changes so fast. Permission settings need to grow as your child does, and I look to PTA for good, better and best practices around challenging topics like cyber bullying,” he said.
As our children share their thoughts, their photos, their lives, and sometimes their locations, with the wider world, it’s more important than ever that we’re educating them to stay safe online. Connect Safely and National PTA are celebrating National Cyber Security Awareness Month as an important time to teach our kids easy-to-learn life lessons for online safety and privacy.
Listen to Paige Hanson’s interview with Larry Magid (for ConnectSafety and CBS Radio) for National Cyber Security Awareness Month Here
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