Internet safety for children depends on parents becoming aware of online hazards and how to guide their children and teens to prevent them.
As parents, we usually do everything we can to keep our children safe and healthy, from asking them to ‘slip, slop, slap’ before going out in the sun, being careful while crossing the street, and always wearing a helmet when biking.
But what are you doing to keep them safe from bullies, predators, and unsuitable content on the internet?
Let’s face it, the internet is here to stay, and with 83% oF teenagers going online three or more times per day (and this is growing as more and more teens get phones), it’s time, if you haven’t already, to add some cyber safety know-how to your parenting toolkit. Here are the tips to help you get started.
Why Internet Safety Matters?
School-aged children like using the internet to watch movies, play games, and communicate with friends and family. They might well be using the internet for education and homework as well. They may use computers, smartphones, tablets, televisions, and other internet-connected gadgets, including toys.
Since school-age children become more independent online and can go online alone, they face more significant internet safety concerns than younger children. There are extra dangers if your kid uses the internet to connect with others, such as on social media or in games.
When you adopt basic practical internet safety measures, you protect your kids from potentially dangerous or inappropriate material and behaviors. And your kid gets to make the most of their online experience, which allows them to study, play, be creative, and interact with others.
How Children and Teens Get Online
According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45 percent of teens say they are online almost continually.
Approximately two-thirds of fourth to eighth-grade students have access to phones or tablets. According to the Center for Cyber Safety and Education’s 2016 Children’s Internet Usage Study, almost half of them had a computer in their bedrooms.
Internet safety risks for school-age children
There are four main kinds of internet risks for children.
These risks include items that school-age children might find unpleasant, repulsive, or otherwise unsettling if they come upon them accidentally. These include sexual material in games, pornography, pictures of animal abuse, and actual or simulated violence.
These risks include kids interacting with strangers or adults posing as children online. For example, a teen may be convinced to disclose personal information with strangers, give contact information after clicking on pop-up messages, or meet face to face with someone they met online.
These risks include kids acting in ways that may cause harm to others or being the victim of such conduct. For example, a child might ruin a game run by a member or sibling. Another risk of bad behavior is making in-app purchases by mistake.
These risks include children getting into unfair contracts, terms, or restrictions that they are unaware of or understand. For example, children can click a button that enables a company to send them inappropriate commercial messages or gather personal or family data. And, children can use a toy, app, or gadget with insufficient internet security, leaving them vulnerable to identity theft or fraud.
What Can Parents Do to Keep Their Children Safe Online?
1. Discuss your child’s internet activities openly with them.
As soon as your kids start using the internet, talk to them about what they’re reading, viewing, and who they are interacting with online – and continue the discussion as they become older. Ask your kids what websites or applications they visit or use, make a list, and go through it with them. Please discuss what you think is acceptable with your kids, and remind them that this may differ for other parents and their children.
Listen to your kids and come to an understanding of what is best for your family. Remember that there will come a day when kids will need to use the internet outside of protecting their own home, and you want them to be ready for that.
It is also essential to educate children about their online reputation and the need to be cautious about how they behave, connect with others, and reflect on themselves in a public forum. They must constantly keep in mind that the internet is not a private space.
2. Keep the screen and gadgets visible.
Always keep an eye on your kid’s internet activity, mainly if they are a young child. Keep the computer in a central location in the house where you can easily monitor what your children are doing and seeing online. You can set mobile devices to forget Wi-Fi passcodes, preventing your children from going online without your knowledge. You can also agree that no tablets, computers, or gaming devices are permitted in bedrooms.
For young kids, you can also try checking browser history after they’ve been online to see what sites they’ve visited. This approach gets more challenging as children grow older and work out how to clear histories – which is more reason to open the lines of communication about internet use at an early age.
3. Parental controls.
It’s essential to know how to use parental controls so that innocent internet searches don’t lead to unpleasant outcomes. Google’s SafeSearch Filters, for example, will prevent you from accessing sites that contain graphic sexual content. Parental controls can help keep your children away from most violent or sexually explicit material, even if they aren’t 100 % correct.
4. Know who your children’s online friends are
People realize that not everyone they meet online is who they claim to be, but children and teenagers can be shockingly ignorant about online talking if they haven’t been trained to be cyber-savvy from an early age.
Make friends and connections in your child’s social media circles and keep an eye on what they are posting. Your children may push back, but explain that this is a must if you provide them access.
5. To protect your privacy, be “share aware”
If your children are regular users of social media, they should be aware of the threat of personal information or photos being made public after uploading them. While kids may not fully understand the consequences of exposing personal info, you should educate them to be cautious about what they post and share.
Encourage your children to examine if the information such as name, phone number, home address, email, school name, or picture is something they would provide to a stranger before posting it. Don’t post it if the answer is no.
6. Keep control over your family’s digital footprint.
Every image and personal information uploaded and shared on social media and the internet adds to a person’s digital footprint. The significant risk here is that once information is shared publicly, it may be used in unexpected and unpredictable ways.
It would be best if you also considered that whatever you post on the internet is permanent. As a result, children and young people must be cautious about protecting their pictures and information. The same is true for parents who frequently share photos of their children on social media.
Tell your kids to keep their digital footprint under control by only sharing with people they know and trust. Instead of posting to all of their social media friends, please encourage them to be selective and to use the privacy settings on the social media sites they use.
7. Teach your children to keep their location private.
Most apps, networks, and devices have geotagging features that make your whereabouts public and lead someone directly to you. These features should be turned off for apparent privacy and safety reasons.
Metadata (information such as time, date, and GPS coordinates) in digital photographs may expose more than you want to know. Some social media sites automatically conceal or delete this data, but not all, so do your research and know how much information you’re giving.
8. Keep track of online time.
It is essential to monitor your child’s time on the computer, especially young, to ensure that they do not adopt harmful habits. Set a timer to go off once your children have agreed on a length of time, say 30 minutes each session – don’t forget to make this a non-negotiable end time.
You should also turn off your home Wi-Fi at a certain period each night (preferably before sleep) so that everyone can take a break from the internet. You may also try making certain days in your house “screen-free” to encourage everyone to engage in more active and more minor technology-driven forms of entertainment.
9. Be #SocialNetworkSavvy
Educate yourself on how to be safe on social media. With this, you can offer your children the most significant advice. Sign up for the social networks and applications your kids use. Also, learn how to use the privacy settings and reporting methods. Discuss how they can remain safe on social media, such as communicating to a trusted person when they are worried and understanding what constitutes online bullying – both as a perpetrator and as a victim.
10. Lead by example
Set a good example by demonstrating the type of constructive online behavior you want your children to follow. They are more likely to follow in your footsteps if they see you being careful and respectful when online. It includes, certainly, restricting your screen time.
Conclusion: Teaching Your Teens How to Use Social Media Safely
Understanding the social media sites that your kids use can help you understand the material and relationships they are exposed to. Following or friending your teenagers on these sites can help you monitor their social media activities.
However, make it clear if you want to monitor their online activity, record their browser history, and keep a copy of their passwords. Spying on your children’s online activity without their knowledge can damage their trust in you.