As a parent, chances are you are worried about the impact of the internet on your childrens’ safety. Today, it is hard to get by without having at least some access to the internet, and although we can keep our children offline to some extent when they are very young, once they get a bit older, they are going to want and need to use the internet for various things from chatting and playing games with friends to researching their homework.
It is important, then, that we parents do everything we can to ensure that our children are safe online. Here are a few simple things that will help with that:
Start as soon as possible
Even if you don’t particularly want your tiny tots to be using phones and tablets it’s a good idea to get them used to learning about the internet and technology and how it can be safely used. So, even if you think it is too early for the conversations to be had, it probably isn’t. Just try to keep it all age-appropriate.
Check age ratings
Age ratings are there to protect children from content that may not be appropriate for them. So, as a parent, you will want to make sure that before you download a game or let your children join a particular social network, you check the age rating. If the thing they want to do is not age-appropriate sit them down and gha e a very clear chat with them about it and let them know that you are just trying to protect them from things they are not yet ready for. Let them know you will review your decision when they are a bit older and hopefully they wu;l be able to understand why you are doing what you are doing.
Keep security updated
It is really important that you use security software on all of the devices you and your children use to access the internet. You should, at the very least have a firewall, antivirus software, and some decent parental control software on your devices if you want to be able to protect from most threats and ensure you know what your children are doing, and have a decent level of control over what they can and cannot access. You should also take notice of warnings like the MacBook your connection is not private warning, which may suggest that you need to update your browser software too, The more up-to-date everything is, the less likely anything nasty will slip through the net.
Keep devices where you can see them
For younger children, in particular, it is always a good idea to only allow them to use devices that can access the internet when you are close by so that you can monitor what they are doing and hopefully prevent them from accessing anything that they should not. With older kids who may want and deserve a little more privacy come to an agreement that they will show you their phone/device at random, so you can do spot checks and ensure that you are clued in to what they are up to online.
Teach them the importance of privacy
With social networks like Facebook and Instagram being ever-present in most people’s lives, it is really important that you teach your children how to use them appropriately. As soon as they are old enough to understand, talk to your kids about the importance of privacy and what kind of information is best kept to oneself, teach them that they should never share passwords or private information like their address or phone number with people on the internet who could use them to scam them or even worse, lure them into a trap.
Although it may make for an uncomfortable conversation it is also important that you teach your kids about the fact that not everyone online is who they say they are, so they should refrain from trusting anyone who they are not absolutely certain they know, and even then, they should keep private information to a minimum if they mention it at all.
Learn with them
Something that can really help parents and children to stay safe online is learning about the internet and all of its challenges and rewards together. If you want your kids to take your safety message seriously, then you first need to convince them that you know what you are talking about which means you actually need to know how things work! By learning about it all with them, you can show them that you understand you care and you want them to be safe, and create a unique bonding experience that will make them more likely to listen. You might think when it comes to internet safety, you know it all, but I bet there are a few tricks even you haven’t heard of yet!
Talk about sexting
Yes, it can be uncomfortable, but if you want to keep your kids safe, you need to broach the subject of sexting and sending nudes and explain that those texts and images they send could be online forever doing way more damage than they might imagine possible. Try not to scare them but do make it clear how nothing ever truly vanishes on the internet, discuss how their images are actually child pornography, and broach the subject of them potentially falling into the wrong hands too, if you feel uncomfortable, you could talk to your child’s school about holding a special assembly or event about sexting so they can learn about it in a neutral space where everyone is on the same page and knows how to handle such issues with sensitivity.
The internet may be as dangerous as it is rewarding, but there is no point sticking your head in the sand – if you want your children to be safe, you need to tackle the issue with them head-on and ensure they, and you, know how to stay safe when using the internet!