By now, it’s evident that even though your children might be at home and not out in the big, scary world, they’re not always safe. Through the internet, they’ve still got access to the world outside, albeit digitally. What may be even scarier is that the world outside, including strangers, have digital access to your child when they’re online. Allowing kids to use the internet is not something that can be kept prevented these days. After all, their education, research, and even communication with their friends happen online.
Even more so, with lockdowns and social distancing taking place all over the world right now, due to the novel coronavirus, the internet is critical to all our lives – even the lives of your children. Here are a few sensible, practical steps that you can take to protect your child while online.
Keep Tablets and Computers in a Visible Place
Probably the most sensible of them all, keep your kids’ devices, like tablets, mobile phones, and computers in common areas of your home. This allows you to keep an eye on what’s going on. If this is made a household rule, you’ll know to be suspicious if your children use their devices online in private, or begin to ask if they can use the internet in their own rooms, it may be a sign that they could be engaged in something concerning online. One in four children has seen unwanted pornography online, for example, so keeping their devices where you can see them is a barrier keeping your child from witnessing distressing content.
Install Filtering Software
Make sure to install filtering software on all your children’s devices. It’s best to do this without their knowledge, or before they’re savvy enough to learn how to disable safety features on their laptops and tablets. Filtering software gives you the ability to restrict the kind of content that your kids are able to view online, across devices. It’s also possible for you to monitor your kids’ activities online.
Stay Up to Date with Social Media
Social media has its benefits as well as its cons. For children, especially, social media is a way for others to gain access to them online, as well as for kids to be exposed to and engage in distressing, dangerous online trends. This is why it’s all the more important that you keep up to date with social media so that you’re able to keep abreast of online trends, as well as new methods that strangers use to lure children online.
One in five children who are active online have been sexually solicited – and this is not always by strangers. By staying up to date with social media in general (both its positives and negatives), it helps you to make informed decisions about the social platforms that you’d allow your kids to use. These include TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and even online games with integrated messaging and voice chatting. If you’ve got any suspicions regarding anyone that your child has been in contact with online, or even if they’ve been sexually solicited online, using a service like Nuwber to find out more information about the individual could be very helpful to both you and the police.
Educate Your Children and Yourself
By educating yourself, you’re able to educate and guide your children to make informed choices online and to spot trouble and stay away from it. The reality is that your kids probably know more about what’s happening online than you do, leaving you in the dark about many dangers of the online world.
With all the social media options today, for example, sensitive information about your child could be plastered all over, making them targets for online predators. This can easily occur when your kid posts photos online, including locations and who they’re with. Learn about privacy settings, how these systems work, and what you and your children can do together to keep them safe while engaging on public digital platforms.
Limit Screen Time
While the old tale that sitting in front of a screen for hours on end will turn your eyes into rectangles, research has shown that too much screen time is detrimental to your child’s mental and physical health. For example, toddlers should be limited to no more than one hour of screen time per day. Having said that, even with older children, limiting screen time allows them to lead a more balanced lifestyle.
Engage in Dialogue with Your Kids
Talk to your kids in such a way that they’re comfortable to talk to, and share with you, too. Share stories with your kids about the dangers of internet abuse and the repercussion of being negligent online. There’s no need to turn these into horror stories, of course, but it’s necessary that your kids know that, as with everything, there are both benefits and dangers. Speaking to your kids about online issues in a proactive, positive manner will encourage them to share their online lives with you. This will let you into their lives and allow you to learn more, as well to guide and protect them while online.