How You Can Promote Safety
All safety—especially mobile and online safety—begins at home. The habits you exhibit about technology use in your home will be the same habits your children learn. Ask yourself what you consider appropriate or inappropriate uses of technology and then compare that with how you might be acting.
Do you use your phone at the dinner table? Do you text while talking with others? Do you instantly pull out your phone when a new message arrives? Do you text while driving? Do you use computers in public areas of the house or do you habitually bring them into your bedroom behind a closed door? Model the behavior you yourself expect from your children.
In addition to your living example, consider following some of these steps:
1) Use anti-virus, Firewall, and anti-malware software. These software packages provide a baseline of protection. However, also make sure you and your kids don't visit file sharing web sites or open email attachments from people you don't know or open attachments that look suspicious. There are many software packages available. Here are a few places to start:
2) Put all computers in a public space. A central place in the house where you can see what is on the screen is preferred. Don't put computers in kids' rooms. Refrain from using laptops in bedrooms or private areas. If computers absolutely must be put in a private room, have a policy that doors must be open when they are in use. Internet connected devices in concealed areas just offers kids too much unnecessary temptation.
3) Review where your kids go online. Let your kids know that you will be periodically be reviewing the sites that all of you, as a family, visit. Don't do this in an authoritarian way, but rather as a way to engage your kids in dialogue.
4) Teach Internet Safety. It may seem self-evident, but before you let your kids loose online, teach them ethical behavior and Internet basics, which include: making sure they use strong passwords; not give out personal or identifiable information about themselves or their family; not talking to strangers online. Also remind kids that nothing on the Internet is private and that people online are not always truthful and may not be who they say are.
5) Review Internet Safety with your kids. Once you've taught your kids some basics, review those basics and even do some role play. Just because you have told your children something doesn't mean that they will be able to actually do it. Role playing can help.
6) Discuss what your kids see online. Interact with your children regularly about their online behavior. Computers are not baby sitters or a substitute for interactive parenting.
7) Consider an online contract as a family. Several web sites offer "family Internet use contracts" that clearly define the boundaries for Internet usage, what they should ask for, and permissible behavior. Both parents and kids sign the contract. CommonSense Media has sample contracts for different ages and grades.
8) Promote Safety in your Parish: Provide Internet safety literature (such as this guide) in the Church narthex, vestibule, or other locations where you distribute parish information. You can publish Internet safety tips from this publication in the print and digital editions of your weekly or monthly parish bulletins.
9) Check Archdiocesan Guidelines. Check with your Archdiocese for guidelines regarding social networking and digital communication. Youth workers, especially, should follow a standard communication, conduct, and reporting policy from the archdiocese, metropolis or diocese. Parents, youth workers, and the even the kids themselves should have guidelines regarding connections on social media sites, sharing photos or videos, and sending text or MMS messages. For additional information about policies for parishes please visit:
There are many other things that you can do, which will be defined in more detail in the following sections. However, we want to reiterate something that you will see in several places throughout this guide: you, your example, and your attitudes are among the most important parts of any safety plan for your family. Internet safety starts with you!