Are Your Kids Breaking These Rules Online?

You have gone over the basics of online safety and even posted a Family Game Plan next to the computer. You are doing fantastic. 

However, there are still some critical rules (some even laws) your kids could be breaking online that have ethical, even legal, consequences. (We know—just when you thought you could relax right?) 

In the online world it is easy for lines to become blurred over right and wrong. With the flurry of information and exchange of ideas moving at warp speed, it is easy to bend the rules, right? Wrong! Teaching your kids that their integrity is not for sale online—no matter how great or easy the temptation—is a big deal. Getting in front of these issues now, and teaching kids early, will save them from bigger stumbles in the future.

Here are a few rules your kids might be breaking and how to turn it around: 

  1. Creating accounts while under aged. Whether your kids  (or you) acknowledge it or not, if they have established an account on social media sites such as Facebook and are under 13, they are breaking the site’s Terms of Service agreement.Take Action:The bottom line is that creating an account while underage is violating an agreement and lying. These social sites have established these rules because some of the content shared in the “feeds” can be inappropriate and even compromise a young person’s safety. Point your kids toward other sites such as,,, or
  2. Downloading or sharing illegal content.There are dozens of ways online kids can get a hold of music, movies, and TV shows, and video games illegally online. Not only is it illegal and punishable by law, but also the practice can bring  viruses into your home in the process.Take Action: Make sure the practice stops if it is going on in your home. Wipe your computers and digital devices of illegal content and discuss the ethical and legal issues with your kids. As digital natives, some kids have grown up with the practice of passing music, links, and games between them and see nothing wrong with it. However, downloading and uploading copyrighted material unethical is illegal. Under U.S. law, offenders can be punished with up to five years in jail and $250,000 in fines. Also, protect your family’s privacy and technology with the proper software.
  3. Plagiarism and cheating.With the increase of mobile devices in schools, cheating is on the rise. So commonplace is the digital exchange of information, many teens do not even see the problem with using some or all of another person’s thoughts, ideas, or work in an assignment. With such a steady stream of information readily available, the temptation to cheat is greater than ever.Take Action: With knowledge literally at our kids’ fingertips, the first step in hitting the cheating issue head on is simply for parents to acknowledge the potential problem. In McAfee’s study “The Digital Divide: How the Online Behavior of Teens is Getting Past Parents” shows parents “unconcerned” about their kids cheating, and 48% of teens admitting they have. Talk to your kids about the ethical issues behind cheating and the importance of honoring the ideas, content, and thoughts of others. Start with their Facebook posts and stress the importance of citing authors and attributing quotes. Define “fair use” for your kids. Sometimes cheating or plagiarism is not malicious but simply that teachers and parents assume kids should know the rules.

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