Please Note: This blog is the opinion of the author only.
Technology continues to evolve at a break-neck pace. In the last 40 years, we’ve gone from the first commercially released cellphone to artificial intelligence chatbots that can answer complex questions and even create articles and blogs. While these evolutions are changing our daily lives, they also come with a significant downside. More specifically, online safety and privacy.
Many of us have been around since before the compact disc, so we’re pretty acclimated to the pace at which technology is evolving. Future generations however will have to deal with an even more digitally enabled world than we’ve currently been exposed to. So how do we prepare our youth to safely navigate these new frontiers?
Kids are exposed to technology the day they’re born. From that moment on, they’ll be exposed to computers and computer games, mobile devices, laptops, tablets, television, radio, and virtually every other sensory engagement technology we’ve created in the last few decades. Helping our kids navigate this tech terrain early is going to shape how they engage technology as they grow. Teaching them early on about good habits and behaviors when using technology will have a lasting and positive impact.
Use Age-Appropriate Language
We’ve all been in situations where we’re learning something and a word pops up that catches us off-guard. The next thing you know, we’ve lost sight of the topic we’re focused on because we get hung up on trying to understand the word and the context within its usage. This is why it’s important that when we talk to kids about technology we use simple words and simple concepts that are appropriate for their education levels. Learning anything can be frustrating, so its vital that we exercise patience and create a conversation that engages them with language and terms that they’re familiar with. The easier we make the conversations, the more information they’re going to absorb.
As a former kid myself, I hate this concept. It completely messes with my curiosity and my need to learn and grow. However, as adults, we can all easily see why boundaries on exposure to specific things in our lives are not only beneficial but help move us towards a healthy life balance. Technology is one of those things that requires balance. My folks used to kick me out of the house on Saturday mornings because I’d sit in front of the TV watching whatever cartoon came on next. But the sun was shining outside and my mom knew the value of getting me out from in front of the TV and outside to get some exercise and engage socially. So boundaries are something we need to be focused on to ensure our kids have exposure to balance.
Encourage Critical Thinking
As our exposure to everything internet grows, so does the importance of critical thinking. Critical thinking isn’t about being negative or being a nay-sayer, it’s about questioning the validity of the information we engage. Just because something is on the internet (like this article for example) doesn’t mean it’s correct. I remember being young and asking my parents questions about a great many topics. They’d usually regurgitate an answer they felt was right and I’d simply move on. As I grew, I started to realize they weren’t always right. It wasn’t because they had nefarious intent, its simply because that’s what they were taught. Today we have the internet. We’ve got legions of information on every imaginable topic at our fingertips. Being able to separate out the pearls from the piles of sand gives us power. It gives us independence. Teaching kids to be critical thinkers will give them the tools needed to navigate their way through the technology explosion that continues to bulldoze its way through our lives.
Practice Safe Browsing Habits
I’m not going to get too preachy here, but we’re all pretty bad at password updates. Yep, I’m no different. One of the keys to being safe online is to ensure that we’re using strong passwords and that we’re not recycling them or using them on multiple sites. Everyone is guilty, so it’s important that we educate our kids to the importance of proper password usage. The same holds true for following links. It’s never a good idea to click on a link you receive in an email, even if it from a Prince in a land that you cannot pronounce, and comes with the promise of millions of dollars to be wired to your bank account. The bottom line here is that we need to let our kids know the importance of safe browsing. One mis-click can cause a whole lot of trouble.
Be a good Role Model
Kids are clever. If we’re eating ice cream and telling them that too much sweets is bad, they’re going to look at us funny. Being safe online is something we should all strive for, and we should all work to incorporate best-practices as often as possible. Show your kids how to set and update passwords. Show them how to properly use web browsers and share with them privacy settings so they understand clearly how to protect themselves while browsing. Setting these examples for kids to follow, and sticking with them will show them the importance of being diligent on privacy. Good online habits and etiquette that is learned early on will give kids a solid foundation to build their online engagement on, and will help to keep them safer.
Focus on the Positives
The internet holds an extraordinary amount of educational and entertaining content. Its important that when we talk to our kids about how to use the internet, that we focus on the positives. Online privacy and security, as we’re all aware, is very important and we need to educate our kids to be wary of potential hazards. However, we don’t want the negatives to be the focus. We don’t want to deter kids from being curious and exploring their interests. We just want to make sure that we’re giving them the tools needed to enable them to be as safe as possible while they navigate the digital terrain.
Use real-life examples
When talking about the potential hazards of being online, we want to use real life examples with our kids. Show them the negative impacts of some of the larger data breaches we’re all familiar with. Let them see the costs associated with the loss of personal and private information. Keep the examples simple and understandable so they digest the information. The more real it is, the more impactful the education will be. Here again, we don’t want to frighten our kids into walking a perfectly straight line, we just want them to be aware and to understand the importance of keeping themselves safe online.
Proactively Protect Them
Children and teenagers are uniquely vulnerable. Of course, there are the issues of basic online safety. We want to protect them from strangers, scams, harassment, and worse. The above teaching tips will protect them in the long run from many of the internet’s more harrowing obstacles. It is important, however to do our part to protect them from more direct threats to their identities and financial futures.
Bad actors will take any and every opportunity to hijack the identities of our young people. Social security numbers and other pieces of personally identifying information can be used to ruin the futures of our kids before they even begin.
We can keep them secure during their younger years by monitoring their credit histories early on, no matter how silly it feels. We can also protect them by keeping any documents containing their data private. Privacy and security online are the best tools we have available to us as adults to encourage online safety. Demonstrate that you’re capable of protecting the most important data you have available to you.
Life has a lot of ups and a lot of downs. There’s a lot of good and a lot of bad. The key is to try to find a good balance. Balance in everything we do makes us happier and healthier as people. By starting out early and giving our kids a good foundation of information to help them to enjoy the internet in a safe and productive manner will give them the tools they need to ensure a good balance in their approach to online safety.
AXEL Go may not protect your kids from cyberbullying, that is going to take careful conversation and patience. What we can do, however, is protect their data while they fumble their way toward adulthood. We use cutting-edge encryption and innovative storage solutions to thwart cyber attacks before they happen. With AXEL Go, you can be the shining example of strong digital hygiene.