The once colorful leaves have fallen off the trees; many have even blown away in the wind. The Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference that drew more than 450 participants from over 15 countries is a now a series of photographs and video clips lining our memories’ walls.
During the conference, I had the honor of sitting on a panel with leaders of Internet safety task forces from the past 15 years. We all sat on the front stage holding our task force reports that together contained thousands of pages of information. As I sat there, I once again realized the sheer volume of insight and knowledge that was in them and I thought of the circle we live in. Everywhere we experts go, our knowledge goes there with us, gets passed around amongst us, and then we go home better informed, more educated, and more capable than ever before.
I also realized the sheer lack of information that was in the minds of many in our society who are struggling to embrace online safety, security, and privacy, and who are daily giving all of us online safety experts a simple call to action:
“Please, just tell me what to do!”
Now is the time to answer this cry for help that is getting louder with every news story, every tragic event, and every government investigation.
So let’s make it our collective call to action to start telling folks out there what to do. We can all start by creating a few actions items either from these task force reports or from what we already know.
Here are just a few to get us started:
1. Set aside 30 minutes with your teen to have them show you how to create a Facebook page and then walk through each of the privacy settings with them (yes, each and every one of the settings). You will both learn what they are, how to use them, and why they matter.
2. Put a question on the top of your teen’s computer screen that gently reminds them of the long term, far reaching, and considerable impact that hitting the ‘send’ or ‘enter’ button on their computer can have: “Would you want to be treated this way?”
3. Put a question at the bottom of your teen’s computer screen that gently reminds them of the permanent nature of information shared online: “Would you want to see this on the front page of the New York Times?” Once information you choose to post is out there, anyone including college admissions officers and future employers can see it.
4. When your friends come over for dinner, ask them what they are doing about online safety, security, and privacy. So many of us learn from our friends in every aspect of our lives. This is no different.
Online safety is full of simple tasks we can all do. Let’s join together to tell people what they are.