Pool parties, hanging out with friends and sleepovers are just some of the activities enjoyed by your kids this summer. But before you allow your child to take part in an overnight stay, internet safety expert Donna Rice Hughes says parents need to know the answers to six questions.
Being able to answer them is extremely important "to help better ensure a cybersafe sleepover," Hughes wrote in an email.
1. Do you know the family well?
2. Will adults be home the entire time your child is present?
3. Is their WiFi set up with parental controls and filters, as well as ALL Internet-enabled devices (gaming devices, laptops, smart phones)?
4. Is your child's Internet-enabled device (cell phone, tablet) that s/he brings also protected with parental controls and filters?
5. Depending on the age of your child, will adults be present when the Internet is accessed?
6. Have you had a discussion with the child's parents about the cyber-safety guidelines you expect your child to abide by?
"If your child or his friend is old enough to have a cell phone, he or she could use it as a device for cyberbullying or sexting," Hughes explained.
"Of course, open access to the digital world also opens up doors to viewing inappropriate or offensive language, access to pornography, or access to your child by an online predator," she continued.
A sleepover can also involve a lot of time with online gaming, which can pose a safety threat to your children as well, Hughes wrote. She said it's a must that parents activate controls on gaming systems to protect kids from explicit content popping up or a child predator being able to access them.
Hughes also wants parents to consider using monitoring tools. They allow a parent or guardian to actually see what sites or information children are visiting or accessing when they're not at home.
The monitoring tools also can enable a parent to see the amount of time a child spends using their personal devices.
"Of course, there is other general information you will want to obtain in advance that doesn't necessarily involve Internet use to ensure your child's safety," Hughes advised.
"Make sure that your child knows how to connect with you immediately if anything makes them feel uncomfortable," she wrote.
In addition, Hughes wants parents "to trust their instincts."
"If you don't feel confident about sending your child for an overnight's stay, don't send them; or instead, invite your child's friend to stay at your own home where you can better monitor all activity," she wrote.
"You can always ask a child to check his phone at the front door when arriving," Hughes continued.
Hughes is the president and CEO of the internet safety organization, Enough is Enough. She encourages parents and guardians to educate themselves about online dangers by visiting EIE's Internet Safety 101 website.
The site has information and recommended tools to keep children safe.