Philippians 4:8 exhorts us to think on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. This challenge is echoed throughout Scripture and provides a standard for daily living, including our interactions with the world of technology. As we strive to please God in this way, there are practical ways we can put safeguards in place to keep ourselves and our students safe.
To start, it is important that we stay well informed about technology and current issues so we can help make the Internet a safe place for students. Knowing how to use the sites, apps, and devices used by students helps us be a resource for them as we understand the capabilities and possible safety risks involved. In addition, talking openly with students about personal safety on the Internet is important. A child’s best online protection is the caring adults in his/her life. It helps to communicate concerns and expectations and to offer accountability. Role playing, such as “what would you do if someone online asked where you live?” provides a great segue into discussions about online activity and helps open the door for future communication should a situation arise.
Following are other practical ways to help keep students safe as they access online content:
Keep the computer in a high-traffic area of your home.
- Establish limits for which online sites children may visit and for how long.
- In addition to a reputable Internet filter, utilize the parent-control options provided by your Internet service provider (usually found under the Tools menu). Use strict privacy settings (such as opting out of location sharing and automatic information share or posting to social media sites) on devices and apps as well.
- Create screen names for children to protect their real identity. Avoid using nicknames or any personal details, such as birth year or sports number.
- Each child should ask a parent before sharing his/her name, address, phone number, school, or photo online.
- Share an email or social media account with your child to allow for monitoring.
- Help your child create strong passwords that should never be shared (except with parents)—nonsense words, including letters/symbols, are best. Instead of writing down passwords, consider writing down password hints.
- Surf the Internet with your children and bookmark your child’s favorite sites for easy direct access.
- Use caution in accessing forums or chat rooms. These are popular online destinations for predators.
- Encourage children to notify you immediately if anything online makes them feel awkward, sad, scared, or confused. Be alert to any behavior or statements that seem to reveal your child is uncomfortable after being online. Withdrawal or reluctance to talk, long hours online (especially at night), unusual phone calls, or unsolicited gifts are also potential warning signs.