Welcome the era of constant screen time. Keeping your kids safe online nowadays is no easy feat. 1 in 4 kids who use the web have bumped on unwanted pornography. Do I now have your attention?.
The web is a wide-open resource and with our kids getting more adept with technology, your child can make friends online or explore subjects of interest or worse they could be victims of cyberbullying or terrorism.
How can you ensure your child’s safety online? There is no one size fits all approach and it is more nerve-wracking than you think. The world of social media is a “wild west” so much that you cannot take a back seat and let your kid navigate the web blindly.
When should you allow your child to go online?
According to Ofcom, one percent of 3-year-old British children have access to their own Smartphone and 19% own a tablet. What’s more, at this age, 52% of children access the internet for a minimum of 9 hours every week.
There is no “best” age to allow your kids access to the internet. The right timing boils down to how intellectually mature your child is. It’s about giving them the freedom to go online yes, but after educating them on the scary side of the wild world web and setting boundaries.
Before you hand your kids’ online privileges, here’s a guide on how to keep them safe online.
1. Have “The Talk.”
As a parent, it is normal to have jitters when your child begins to go online but your first line of defense is education. It is essential to sit your little ones down and make them aware of the dangers online and safety measures.
At this point, you can set internet usage limits together with your kids and educate them on what they should do in case they are exposed to inappropriate content. You should make them aware of the sites that are not age-appropriate like Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram.
Your kids should be aware of what constitutes personal information and why they should never share it without your permission. It is also crucial you talk to them about online predators.
It might sound scary but stress the importance of never engaging in offensive chats, meeting someone in person they met online and report any suspicious behavior to you. Walk the talk. You need to create rules and consequences so that they know if they visit a site that’s off-limits they risk losing their online privileges for a month or more.
2. Employ Parental Control Measures
There are a ton of exciting technologies to help you monitor your child’s internet usage. You can create a password-protected admin control on your child’s computer to allow you to set restrictions on access. Let’s say you can limit access past 9 pm.
You can also limit the duration your kids can go online like for an hour or up to three hours as you wish. Even better, you can filter their chats, approve their online friends and censor inappropriate websites.
If your child is just starting out in the online world, we advise you to set maximum internet restrictions. Don’t be afraid to put up rules and barriers, it is a norm in every aspect of life and you need to make your kids understand why you have to curtail their online activities.
You need reputable and reliable comprehensive parental control software to do the job. Norton Internet Security, Net Nanny, and CyberPatrol are among the popular choices. Google also has a suite of solid safety tools including YouTube Safety mode which allows you to block age-inappropriate content.
Google’s SafeSearch ensures mobile internet safety. You can be at ease when your child is using their Smartphone to access the web.
3. Exercise Vigilance
We suggest you place the computer in the living area in an open place visible to you and others. You want to keep an eye on the search results that come across the screen. You also need to be aware of other internet devices your kid may be using.
Be on the lookout for warning signs your child is exploring inappropriate content like if he or she switches screens swiftly when they see you. Also, look out for early signs of cyberbullying.
These can include a sudden change in normal behavior, any off-hand comments, suspicious calls or texts, and anxiety or nervousness after using the computer.
4. Create an “Open Policy” Window
One of the dangers of the online world is if your kids can’t talk to you about the unsanctioned content they come across online or when someone does or says something inappropriate. This can leave your child feeling isolated and more vulnerable to harm.
When something goes wrong, don’t get angry. Your child will only build higher walls for you. Keep calm and let your little one feel confident in confiding in you. Your kids ought to be aware that nothing they do online is private.
Give yourself full and unabashed rights to snoop on their online lives. Your child should know it’s a matter of security and not mistrust. It’s like the way you wouldn’t allow your 13-year-old to go to a party unchaperoned.
Show interest in your kids’ interests and have open conversations so that they don’t feel the need to hide their media lives.
5. Instill Purpose-Driven Usage
The way you wouldn’t allow your child to watch anything they fancy on television is the same way you need to restrict what they can access online. Purpose-driven surfing is your best option.
Let’s say he’s researching a school project for a report or wants to check out the latest video games, you can further refine the search results. This way you can know what he’s looking for, what will come up on the search engines and how long he should take.
Ensure the popup blocker is turned on in the event they bump into unsanctioned content.
Zero magic bullets:
A combination of education, mobile-safety apps, precautionary measures, vigilance, and parental controls will come a long way in keeping your child’s online life safe from predators. But nothing beats open communication with your kids — that’s what really matters.