The world suddenly becomes a more dangerous place as soon as you become a parent. You want to do anything and everything to ensure your child is safe at all times. With smartphones and mobile devices becoming commonplace, more and more children have access to the Internet. In 2018, around 41% of children aged 3-5 years old, 57% of children aged 6-11 years old, and 71% of teenagers had Internet access at home. While the Internet can be a dangerous and scary place for young minds, it is impossible to restrict them from exploring and discovering the World Wide Web in this day and age. Sooner or later, it will end up becoming an intrinsic part of their life. The most effective weapon against fear and anxiety is knowledge. Therefore, we have compiled some useful online safety tips to help you protect your children from inappropriate content, bullies, and predators.
Discuss your child’s online activity with them openly
Show interest in and be vigilant regarding what your child is watching, reading, or who they are talking to online from the get-go- continue this conversation even as they grow into their teens. Make sure they are aware of what is appropriate and what is harmful beforehand. Remind them that the internet is not a private space so they need to behave and represent themselves appropriately.
Parental control features and tools
Sometimes, even the most innocent searches can result in inappropriate results. Therefore, you must learn how to utilize search restrictions/parental controls offered by internet service providers, various devices, and web browsers. For instance, Google offers SafeSearch Filters that automatically block websites featuring explicit material. You can turn this feature on by going to the Settings. While these filters are not 100% foolproof, they are still considerably effective in preventing young children from coming across/accessing sexual or violent content. There are also many other security features and tools available that you can employ for extra control and protection.
Monitor your child’s Internet friends
As an adult, you probably have a lot of experience or are aware that there are many people on the Internet who aren’t really who they claim to be. However, young people tend to be susceptible to manipulation and may start interacting with problematic/harmful persons. Therefore, it is crucial for you to be aware of every person your child is friends with online and monitor their social media presence. You can background check the people your child interacts with through Nuwber.
Be vigilant about what information your child shares on the Internet
Inform your child that the images or personal information they share on their social network become public as soon as they publish it. Your child might be too young to thoroughly get the consequences of sharing revealing private information on the Internet. However, you must still warn them to be thoughtful and cautious about the information they share and post.
Keep track of the digital footprint of your family
Every personal detail and picture shared and posted on the Internet and social media makes up a person’s digital footprint. No matter how futile the information is, people can utilize it to harm you in ways you cannot control. You must always assume that everything your share on the Internet is permanent, even if you delete it. Therefore, it is crucial for children to be wise about protecting their information and images. The same applies to parents who post pictures of their child on the Internet regularly. Teach your children to be in control of their online footprint by sharing information only with those they trust and know. Make sure they know how to utilize privacy and security settings on the various social platforms they utilize.
Tell your child to turn off geotagging features
Most devices and apps have location features that might make a person’s whereabouts public and lead someone to them. These must be turned off for safety and privacy reasons. The photos you take with smartphones also have metadata (information regarding GPS coordinates, date, time, etc.) that might reveal more information than you would want. While certain social networking sites automatically remove or hide this data, not every platform does. So, parents must do the homework and make sure their child is not unintentionally sharing personal information.
Monitor your child’s screen time
It is recommended that children should avoid a screen time of over two hours per day. So, you must keep track of your child’s screen time, especially if they are young, to prevent them from developing bad habits. Discuss a set time with your children, for instance, 30 minutes for a single session, and time them. The finish time should be non-negotiable. Make sure your children get a break by switching the Wi-Fi off at a particular time every night. Another effective strategy is keeping some days completely screen-free. It will encourage your children to pursue other activities to occupy themselves.
If you want to ensure online safety for your children, it is crucial for you to know the ins-and-outs of online apps and social networks yourself. After all, you can only teach your child what you already know. Create an account on the apps and social networks your child uses and figure out how to utilize the reporting mechanisms and privacy settings. Make sure your child is aware of what is considered online bullying- both as a victim and a perpetrator. They must know how to block someone, report offensive and/or inappropriate posts, and keep personal information private.
To sum up, the Internet might have some cons. However, there are just as many (if not more) educational, social, and entertainment benefits of this technology. The last thing you want to do is instill fear or prevent your child from experiencing, learning, and growing from the variety of content available online. The best route is to make sure they are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to know how they can reap the most benefits and avoid getting in harm’s way.