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Web-savvy family: Keeping track of our little ones’ online activities

Do your young children love your connected devices? If they do, it’s most likely because of a fun game or an app that they can’t stop playing. I know firsthand that it can be hard to turn them off! There’s an app for just about everything, including an endless amount of games for your kids. And most of these apps cost less than a dollar, or they’re free. There are also websites that offer online games for children like NickJr and Webkinz. While most of the leading sites do take measures to ensure they are safe environments for children, there are still associated risks when playing.

Many of these sites have built-in chat features that allow users to communicate with one another online. This isn’t social networking, but there are still elements of social networking sites that exist here with similar dangers. Whether you choose to turn off the online chat features in the some of these apps, try to be actively involved in their online engagement, as you are with their other activities. Now, there will be times when you aren’t around. Set rules with your children. Let them know that they should not send chat messages, or share any personal information on these chat platforms.

Another issue to consider with apps is permissions. This refers to the rights you allow for each app to access and share your private data. Sometimes an app requests to know absolutely nothing about you. Then there are others that request your gender and age. Other times, the app can access your location and report it back to the app company. Did you know that some apps do far more? They can access your contact list, address book, and other personal information stored on your devices. You should be sure to review any new apps before you download them. A great resource is where you can research the different permissions for popular apps.

Our kids are becoming digitally savvy at frighteningly young ages and they know a lot more about the internet that many of us parents. It’s still critical (and manageable) that we understand what they are being exposed to online and try to be the same kind of parents we are to them online as we are offline.

Lynn Hargrove is the Director of Consumer Solutions for Symantec Canada

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