• boy with ipad Online Safety Tips for Parents 

    Today’s children and teens are considered “digital natives” – meaning they have grown up with the Internet and digital technology and, as a result, are very comfortable and proficient at its use. Many parents are less comfortable navigating the websites, apps and games that their children use.

    This page is meant to give parents a starting place to learn more about how to keep children and teens safe as they use and interact with others via the Internet and digital devices (computers, laptops, mobile phones, tablets, etc.).

     Basic Safety Tips

    • The most important thing parents can do is to talk with their children about online safety and help set guidelines for safe and appropriate use.
    • Know which websites, social media, apps, and games your child is using. 
    • Know the usernames and passwords for the websites, social media, apps and games your child is using.
    • Help your child understand that anything they share online or in apps is never truly private.
      • Never reveal your full name, address, location, age or other personal information.
      • Never make plans to meet in person someone that your child has met only online.
      • Photos, even when shared through private messages, can be saved (for example taking screen shots of Snapchat messages) and shared by others.
    • Make sure passwords are at least eight characters long and a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
    • Search the Internet or specific sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) for your child’s name, username or other identifiable information to find out what is easily available to the public (and to future college admissions staff or employers).

    Mobile Phone and Device Safety Tips

    To help your children stay safe:

    • Use phone or device settings to limit who can locate you. Smart phones and tablets are equipped with geolocation technology that can pinpoint the phone’s location. This makes it possible for apps to share your child’s location with other users or companies. It’s possible to turn off geolocation, either for the entire phone or device, or just for specific apps. You and your children can review the apps on their phones to see which apps share location. If you’re uncomfortable with any of them, you can try to turn off the app’s location feature or just delete the app.
    • Parental-control tools are available. To find parental-control tools, contact your mobile phone company to see what it offers, or visit GrowingWireless.com for a list of wireless parental-control tools. You can also search for "parental controls," "monitoring" or "filtering" in the app store on your child's phone or device. Most of the major mobile phone companies provide parental-control tools.

    Social Media Safety Tips

    Social media includes forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, and other content; for example, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.

    To help your children stay safe:

    • Know your child’s username and password for each site.
    • Check your child’s friend lists to see who has access to his or her profile. Make sure your child knows all friends/contacts in person.
    • Teach your child to set profiles to private. Be aware that privacy settings do not guarantee complete privacy. All content has the potential to be shared and made public.
    • Remove any inappropriate content and photos and delete any personal information.
    • Check the profiles of your child’s friends. Look to see if there is revealing information or photos about your child.
    • Periodically monitor your child’s accounts. Use your child’s log-in information to review what your child has shared with others, who your child is communicating with, and what personal information may be publicly available.
    • Review privacy settings. It is common for websites to update their default privacy settings. (Facebook does this often.) Regularly checking to make sure your child’s account is still private is important.

    App Safety Tips

    App is short for application, and apps are small, specialized programs downloaded onto mobile devices.

    To help your children stay safe:

    • Be app-savvy. When you’re downloading apps, look at the reviews and pay special attention to the permissions they seek. Only download apps from official sources like Google Play or the Apple App Store and check to see if the apps are appropriate for your child’s age.
    • Research apps. Review privacy policies and descriptions to find out how the app will use your data. Not all apps provide that information, but most of the reputable app developers include it. You can also look for app ratings or user reviews to see if they're worth downloading or if others have had problems.
    • Approve apps before your child downloads them. After researching an app your child is interested in downloading, determine whether or not to allow your child to download, install or use that app.
    • Control what information apps can access. As you install an app, it may ask you if it can access your calendar or location—or whether it can post on your behalf to a social network. Some apps also access your contacts through information saved to your device or through already installed social media apps and can use and sell information about your child’s friends and family contacts. In many cases, you can choose not to allow that access, but with some apps your only choice is to agree to all the permissions or cancel the installation. You and your child should regularly review the apps on your child’s device together and consider deleting any that you’re not comfortable with. There are also parental controls that can help you manage your child’s use of apps.


    Online Gaming Safety Tips

    Online games vary from casual single-player games, to multi-player games, to “massively multiplayer online role-playing games” where potentially millions of players are involved in the game at any one time. Some games are free and others are subscription-based or require credits to acquire virtual goods or possessions to play.

    For example, one of the most popular online games, Minecraft, is a constantly evolving virtual world that has millions of players. It also allows players to choose different levels of involvement, and some of those levels allow players to communicate with each other.

    To help your children stay safe:

    Stay engaged. Let your children know that they can come to you if they feel uncomfortable when playing a game (either the game itself or an interaction with other players).

    • Do your research. Review the ratings for the games your children are playing. Some game sites have multiple games with different ratings.
    • Keep the computer in common areas. If the computer is in a central location, it is easier to monitor your child’s online activities.
    • Check to see whether the game allows direct communication among players. Some games allow players to communicate while playing. Make sure your child’s username and profile information do not reveal personal details (name, age, location, etc.).
    • Know which safety features are available on the gaming equipment that your child uses. For example, a headset may have voice-masking features.
    • Tell your child never to give out personal information while gaming or agree to meet anyone outside of the game. Remember, not all players really are who they say they are online.
    • Teach your child not to respond to anyone who is being rude or bullying while playing the game.
    • Be aware of your children’s online contacts. Make a point of asking who they are chatting with online and how they know them.


    Additional Information About Common Websites and Apps

    General Online Safety Guide (via ConnectSafely) 

    Facebook Family Safety Center (via Facebook)

    Parents’ Guide to Facebook (via ConnectSafely) 

    Family Guide to Twitter (via Twitter)

    Parents’ Guide to Mobile Phones (via ConnectSafely) 

    Parents’ Guide to Snapchat (via ConnectSafely) 

    Parents’ Guide to Instagram (via ConnectSafely) 


    Definitions of Common Abbreviations

    Have you ever been curious to know the meaning of the abbreviations and codes your child may be using in text messages and online? This website offers glossaries of the most common terms.


    Additional Parent Resources

    The following websites are media awareness organizations that offer information to help keep children safe online. These websites are not maintained by Springfield Public Schools.

    www.connectsafely.org (Recursos en Español tambien.)

    www.commonsensemedia.org (En Español: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/espanol

    This resource offers reviews of thousands of websites, games and apps and includes information on the age-appropriateness of content.

    www.netsmartz.org/parents (En Español: http://es.netsmartz.org/Parents)


    http://www.pbs.org/parents/childrenandmedia/ (En Español: http://www.pbs.org/parents/childrenandmedia/spanish/)

    http://www.growingwireless.com/ (En Español: http://www.growingwireless.com/es/inicio)