This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.
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The internet has changed over the years. Kids today are less interested in random chat rooms, and more inclined to connect with their friends via social media. Most recently, Zoom parties have become the norm for kids, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On paper, Zoom parties can be great ways for kids to stay connected. They can chat with their friends, and even meet people from different parts of the country – or the world! The big difference between Zoom parties and chatrooms of the past is that your child can see the people they’re talking to. While that might make things seem safer, there are still some precautions you, as a parent, should be taking.
Zoom isn’t necessarily 100% safe for kids who might not know the risks. Things like Zoombombing, where “trolls” and scammers hop onto meetings and parties to steal information or cause disruption, have become more prominent. Even cyberbullying or stalking can be a safety issue when your child is spending time on Zoom.
So, what can you do to keep your kid safe when they’re spending more time on Zoom parties and connecting with others?
What you need to know
The more you know about the potential risks of kids using Zoom, the easier it will be to keep your child safe. Educate yourself on the security features Zoom uses as well as any potential threats your child might face when they’re doing virtual learning or attending a “party” on Zoom.
Some of the biggest privacy concerns on the Zoom app include:
- Messages from random people
- Content dropping (users linking pornographic images or other inappropriate content)
- Attendee tracking
- Vulnerability to hackers
You can certainly customize the privacy settings through Zoom, but unless you’re fully familiar with the app itself, it can be easy for your child to fall into certain traps. So, make sure you know the risks ahead of time and discuss some of them with your child before allowing them to get on the platform.
Walking your child through Zoom
Once you’re ready for your child to use Zoom, walk them through the features. Explain how things work and your expectations. If your child is old enough to use Zoom to connect with their friends, make sure to set up specific rules for them, including:
- Not giving away personal information
- Adjusting privacy settings as needed
- Never joining a meeting with someone they don’t know
- Never saying something they might regret later since meetings are often recorded
If you’re concerned about your child getting into a “random” Zoom party, why not help them set one up where they can connect with their friends? You can host the party and receive your own private link. In doing so, you’ll be able to monitor the guest list and ensure that “Zoombombers” don’t hop in and ruin the fun.
Throwing an online party can be a lot of fun when you’re willing to get creative. Feel free to set up a specific theme or plan games for your child and their friends. You’ll be able to foster their friendship and connection while ensuring they all have a safe environment to be themselves.
As your child gets more comfortable with the Zoom app and starts using it more frequently, make sure to keep having discussions about internet best practices. When they do become more familiar, it’s easy for them to “forget” about certain rules or think they know how to stay safe. Reminders are important and will reinforce your initial walk-through on how to keep themselves secure on the app.
Keeping your child safe online
Zoom parties and online learning platforms are only half the battle. When it comes to your kids’ safety, make sure they know how to protect themselves wherever they go online. It’s estimated that 90% of teens have used social media, and many children younger than that have done some exploring, too. If they are left to their own devices, they could face cybersecurity issues or give out information that puts them in danger.
So, how can you keep your child safe no matter where their digital navigations take them?
The best general internet safety tips to keep in mind for kids include:
- Making sure they understand the potential risks and dangers
- Protecting personal information
- Securing your devices and accounts
- Setting boundaries for screen time
- Adjusting your rules as needed
Don’t shy away from having a conversation with your child about how to stay safe on the internet. Discuss which behaviors are “okay” as well as things they shouldn’t be participating in. When your child understands the reality of how dangerous the internet can be, they’re more likely to take it seriously. So, explain yourself and the potential risks, rather than just setting rules without merit. By educating them early and often, they’ll be able to grasp safety concepts quickly and keep themselves (and your entire household) secure whenever they’re online.
Zoom parties and digital meetings are likely here to stay, at least in some capacity. Start your child off on the right foot as they begin to spend more time online, and make safety a consistent priority.