Family safety basics

For busy parents, here are some quick suggestions on how to help keep your family safe online.

  1. Talk with your family about online safety. Be clear about your family’s rules and expectations around technology, and consequences for inappropriate use. And most importantly, make sure that they feel comfortable enough to ask for guidance when they encounter tough decisions. This can help your family feel safe exploring the Internet on their own, and to know who to turn to (you) when they have questions.
  2. Use technology together. It’s a good way to teach online safety, and it creates opportunities for you to address online safety topics with your family as they come up.
  3. Discuss online services and sites. Talk with your family about which kind of sites they like to visit and what is appropriate for each family member.
  4. Protect passwords. Help your family learn how to set secure passwords online. Remind your family not to give out their passwords, except maybe to trusted adults, like a parent. Make sure that they make a habit of signing out of their online accounts when they are on public computers at school, in a café or at the library.
  5. Use privacy settings and sharing controls. There are many sites for sharing thoughts, photos, videos, status updates and more. Many of these services offer privacy settings and controls that help you to decide who can see your content before you post it. Talk with your family about what they should and shouldn't share publicly. Help them respect the privacy of others by keeping personal details about family or friends private, and by not identifying people by name in publicly shared content.
  6. Check age restrictions: Many online services have age limits restricting who can use their services. Always check a website’s terms of use before allowing your child to sign up for an account, and be clear with your kids if you have family rules about which sites and services they can use.
  7. Teach your family to communicate responsibly. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you wouldn't say it to someone’s face, don't text it, email it, instant-message it or post it as a comment on someone’s page. Talk about how what you say online might make other people feel, and come up with family guidelines about what kind of communication is appropriate.
  8. Talk to other adults. Open the conversation to your friends, extended family, teachers, coaches and counsellors. Other parents and professionals who work with children can be a great resource to help you decide what feels right for your family, especially if you're dealing with an area of technology that you are unfamiliar with.
  9. Protect your computer and identity. Use antivirus software and update it regularly, unless you have a Chromebook, which doesn't need antivirus software. Talk with your family about the types of personal information – like a national insurance number, phone number or home address – that should not be posted online. Teach your family not to accept files or to open email attachments from unknown people.
  10. Keep it going. Staying safe isn't a one-time thing – technology evolves, and so will the needs of your family. Make sure you keep up an ongoing dialogue. Re-establish your family’s ground rules, check in on everyone’s progress, and set aside time to talk at regular intervals.