Keeping your kids safe in today’s digital world is getting tougher and tougher. Kids are becoming more and more tech savvy at an earlier age. Just offer a toddler your iPad and you’ll see what I mean. While their ability to navigate the increasingly complex world of technology is improving, their ability to discern between what is safe and unsafe in terms of web content is a skill that must be developed over time and with parental guidance. Education, communication and rules can go a long way in helping your child understand how to stay safe online, whether it’s opening questionable links, uploading a YouTube video or texting their friends.
Communication should always be the first line of defense when dealing with any parenting issues and having “the talk” about cyber safety should be just as important as having the “other talk.” As your child begins to use the computer, Internet or your smartphone, it’s essential to ensure that they understand a few basic facts and safety rules:
- What goes online stays online. Forever.
- They are never to give out personal information.
- Make sure they understand what photos are appropriate to post and where it’s ok to post them.
- Ensure that they know these rules migrate to any computer they are on (even when they’re at a friend’s house).
Have the Talk
It’s scary to have to talk to your children about online predators but it can be done in an age appropriate and sensitive manner. Stress the importance of never meeting someone they have met online in person and encourage then to always trust their gut when asked inappropriate or personal questions. When deciding whether or not to allow your child to chat online, ensure that they are only on kid-friendly sites.
Have an Open Window Policy
One key aspect to helping your child stay safe online is to have an open window policy. Computers should always be kept in a public area in the home. Make sure your kids know that nothing they do online, their phones, iPads or iPods is private. Passwords are to be shared with parents and are not to be changed without permission. Ensure that your kids know that you can (and should) check their social network accounts periodically and without warning. They are not to delete their history and they should always ask permission before going online.
Know Where Your Kids are Surfing
Show interest in where your kids are surfing. Ask them which sites they like to visit. Help your child learn to think critically by encouraging purpose-driven searching – figuring out which words typed into the search box will bring them the best results. Have the pop-up blocker on when your kids are using the Internet. Look for warning signs that your child is looking at unsanctioned sites, like switching screens as soon as you walk into the room.
Be attentive to signs of cyber-bullying and harassment. Warning signs include being hesitancy to be online, being nervous when a message appears or emotional distress after using the Internet or getting a text or a sudden change in your child’s behaviour.
Use Parental Controls
Luckily, there are a plethora of technologies available to help you monitor your child’s usage. Many devices have parental control measures built-in. You can create a user with a password-protected admin control to allow you to set restrictions on your children’s usage. You can set the computer to shut off at, say, 10 p.m.
You can also set limits that control how long your child can use a device (one hour, two hours, etc.), and set filters on incoming and outgoing chats, approve “buddies” for online chat services, as well as what websites are viewable. Google also has many safety tools, including a YouTube Safety Mode that filters out age-inappropriate content. This is an advantage for parents who like to share funny YouTube videos with their kids, but are worried they might stumble upon undesirable content.
For a child just starting out on the Internet set the Internet restrictions to the maximum and have them earn lower restrictions as they grow and demonstrate responsible behaviour.
There’s an app for that
Having a mobile kid means sharing media via the smartphone. You can control content at the search engine level on your smart phone too by using tools like Google’s SafeSearch which is accessible on any mobile device. Just choose settings located at the bottom of the screen and you’ll see the option to select Strict, Moderate or to turn SafeSearch off completely.
The best way for a parent to keep their child safe online is to step into their cyber world. Just as a parent knows all the details of the playground, they need to know all the details of their child’s online playground. The Internet is a wondrous tool that can open up your child’s world and expand their mind. But, just like the offline playground, the Internet has its hidden dangers. By taking the online journey with your child, setting firm guidelines and getting involved, you can succeed in helping your child stay safe online.
- Does your middle-schooler really need a phone? (msnbc.msn.com)
- Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe Online This Summer (prweb.com)
- Getting Smart about Your Kid’s Smartphone (fromhiptohousewife.com)
- How Can I Kid-Proof My PC and Gadgets? [Ask Lifehacker] (lifehacker.com)
- Saving Face Program Aims To Help Parents Keep Kids Safe Online (detroit.cbslocal.com)