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BBB Trends: School supplies, schedules filling, you are ready for school — but have you had ‘the talk’?

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

School supplies are packed, schedules are filled with upcoming sports and extracurricular activities and closets are filled with new clothes and shoes: everything appears to be ready to go for the new school year—or so it seems.

There’s just one more little detail to check off the list.

Have you had “the talk” with your children about online security? What about the online games they play? Do they know who they’re interacting with? Do they understand what information they should keep to themselves?

Talk to them. Have open, honest conversations about practicing online safety. Help them understand that chatting with a complete stranger online is just as dangerous—if not more so!—as talking to a stranger in the street when an adult isn’t around. When playing popular online video games, emphasize that it’s critical that they don’t share personal information, like a real name, birthdate, hometown or address.

Set boundaries. Clearly communicate your expectations for household electronics, even if they’re provided by the school. Tie online behaviors to the same reward system you may have in place for grades and chores. Make it clear that having access to the internet, streaming shows, watching a movie and playing games online aren’t rights, but privileges.

Keep all devices in a public area. Monitor what your child is doing online, especially if they’re connected to social media sites. Let them know cell phones, tablets, laptops, and PCs stay in the family room, kitchen or other common gathering areas so that the screen is visible at all times. Know where your child has an account or profile, and what information is being shared on it. This includes the school email system and any electronic homework planners and calendars. Write down all of the usernames and passwords your child uses, and follow the same internet guidelines you would for your own accounts.

Check the privacy settings and consider parental controls. Regularly review the privacy and security policies on the websites your child frequents. Websites change default privacy settings from time to time—and parents will want to know who can see a social media profile, as well as what information might be shared with marketers or strangers. Consider parental controls such as time limits, and those that limit content accessibility.

Keep a watch for common online scam red flags. Make sure your kids know not to click on unsolicited links that appear on websites or in emails, or social media offers that sound too good to be true. If they’re not sure, make sure they know to ask an adult.

Infected emails will often appear to be from someone you or they know. If a suspicious email comes to you supposedly from someone you know, it’s best to email or call the person to see if they meant to send you the message before opening any attachments. More resources on internet safety for your family can be found on our website.

As the school year begins, look beyond the bookbags, activity schedules and new clothes, and do your part to protect your child’s identity.

Sandra Guile is the Public Relations Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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