Parents, specifically, should use privacy settings to restrict who can access and post on their child’s profile, review their child’s friends list, talk to their teens about avoiding sex talk online, and monitor what sites their child is visiting online.

One big theme in the booklet is making sure children and teens know that there are consequences to their actions, and that just because something is online doesn’t mean it’s not in the real world.

“Sending or forwarding sexually explicit photos, videos, or messages from a mobile phone is known as ‘sexting,'” explains the booklet. “Tell your kids not to do it. In addition to risking their reputation and their friendships, they could be breaking the law if they create, forward, or even save this kind of message. Teens may be less likely to make a bad choice if they know the consequences.”

Besides sexting, the booklet also goes into great detail about cyber bullying, describing what it is, how to spot it early on, and how to guide children’s actions when they are confronted by a cyber bully.

“If your child is targeted by a cyber bully, tell them not to respond,” cautions the booklet. “Bullies usually are looking for a reaction from their target. Instead, encourage your child to work with you to save the evidence and talk to you about it. If the bullying persists, share the record with school officials or local law enforcement.”

Phishing is also covered in the booklet, which includes safety recommendations for online communication, texting, and peer-to-peer file sharing in addition to social networking.

There’s also a section just for parents, which discusses parental controls and what parents can do in terms of internet filtering, blocking outgoing content, monitoring computer use, limiting time spent online via software controls, and steering their children toward kid-friendly browsers and search engines.

However, the booklet does stress that the “best way to protect your kids online is to talk to them. When children want important information, most rely on their parents. Children value the opinions of their peers, but [they] tend to rely on their parents for help on the issues that matter most.”

The booklet finishes by giving parents and adults a list of online-savvy vocabulary and a list of resources for more information about cyber safety and laws.

A PDF version of the booklet is available at OnGuardOnline.gov, the federal government’s online safety web site. Like all the consumer education resources at the site, the booklet is available free of charge for public use. At OnGuardOnline, parents and educators can download sections of the booklet, link to it, or post it on their own web site. Printed versions of the booklet can be ordered in bulk at bulkorder.ftc.gov.

Links:

“Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online” (PDF)

Department of Education

Federal Trade Commission

Federal Communications Commission