The internet can be excellent for kids. They can use it to research school homework, talk with teachers and other children, and play interactive games.
But it also comes with risks, such as inappropriate content, online predators, and cyberbullying. Using apps and sites where kids interact, predators may pose as a kid or teen looking to make a new buddy. They might push the child to share personal information, like address and contact number, or insist children call them, comprehending their phone number through caller ID.
This Parent Guide for Protecting Your Child will help you establish clear boundaries for what and when they access the internet and be there for your kids when they make a mistake or have gone too far. Isn’t that what parenting comes down to?
Mobile phones and apps
Smartphones proffer children unprecedented freedom: The feature is to communicate with people without supervision, utilize whatever content they want, and even act vigorously towards other children online with ease. If they don’t know how to use their phone, follow primary ethics and caution, and be conscious of the risks – they could fall victim to online harassment, malware and money theft, vulnerability to violent or sexual content, and far worse.
Execute smartphone practices with your kid. Ensuring your kids involve you on their phone activities with help keep them safe.
There are several precautions you can take to execute phone safety:
- Have your kid sign a cellphone contract before you give them one. Jot down a list of smartphone rules and stick it in a public place in your home.
- Download parental controls. Parental control apps for younger kids allow you to limit your child’s usage, ascertain their location, and control their calls and messages. Apps also enable you to shut off some functions at different times. For instance, disabling text messaging at dinner times.
- Set limits when your kid can use a smartphone and for how long each day.
Streaming content and smart TVs
Streaming content has shot up in demand, and there are more TV shows and movies available at our fingertips than ever before – much of it not especially appropriate for children. While there are great educational programs on Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Apple TV+, BBC iPlayer, and others, kids will always be attracted to popular shows everyone’s talking about – without knowing how rough, sexual, or disrupting they could be for a kid.
How can you ensure your child won’t be imperiled to outcast content?
Most of the big streaming service providers have parental controls, some more strongly than others. Netflix enables you to set up separate profiles for you and your children.
Monitor TV time by restricting the number of hours they watch per day, including parental settings, talking to your kid about the content they watch, and spending TV time as a family. Read on this Parent Guide for Protecting Your Child to know more on the subject.
Gaming consoles and online games
21% of all video game players in the US are under the age of 18. With numerous such games highlighting violent or sexual content, and various platforms to play on, it is essential to be cautious about the sorts of games your kids play.
But not all is bad: Games are also a great way for kids to grow a variety of abilities. They help kids develop problem-solving abilities, determine how to commit to long-term goals, and work as part of a team. They can also be an extraordinary opportunity for family bonding. To ensure your kids enjoy the benefits of gaming and not undergo its dangers, you need to monitor their gameplay.
Social media use is now everywhere among US teens; Access to social media is also necessary to teens’ making social identity. It’s how they connect to their associates, and it can be a healthy alternative to hang out. The key is to establish boundaries so that it remains a positive experience.
Make a safe environment. Do not let your children on social media until they’re mature enough. Keep the computer in a public room. Limit the time spent on social media. Adjust the privacy settings. Monitor your child’s online activity.
Also read: How to Protect Your Internet Privacy?
Our kid’s lives have moved online. Sadly, their bullies have moved online, too.
Cyberbullying is usually in the news, with stories of child self-destruction due to online harassment. Cyberbullying begins at younger ages and could have destructive effects on your kid, ones that will need psychological and psychiatric treatments. Young cyberbullying sufferers are 1.9 times more prone to commit suicide than those who do not undergo online bullying.
The best way to stop cyberbullying is to be aware of your child’s behavior. Some warning signs may show themselves.
A kid who is bullied may shut down their existing social media account and make a new one. He or she may start to avoid social situations, even if they liked being social in the past. They may grow emotionally distressed or withdrawn.
Talk to your child about cyberbullying.
Privacy and information security
As parents, we are most concerned about the online world’s effect on our children’s emotional and physical well-being. It’s easy to forget that children are susceptible to information security threats that can cause significant financial harm.
Threats such as malware and viruses, phishing scams, and identity theft can have a much better chance of hitting a child – being so much more trusting and less experienced than us adults. To kids, sharing their details, such as their full name or where they live, may not seem like such a big deal. A malicious third party may even trick them into sharing your credit card details. The latter part of the Parent Guide for Protecting Your Child presents solution.
What should you communicate with your child?
- Have a discussion with your children about the big threats online today. Ensure they know what a phishing attack and a disreputable games site look like, so they know not to fall for these scams. Also, highlight the impact that a virtual cyber attack will have in the real world.
- Make sure they keep all of their private information and never publish their full name, phone number, address, or the school they attend in a public place.
- Talk to your kids about passwords. Having a strong password is the first and best measure to prevent hacking and identity theft.
- Tell your kids to avoid using public wifi – this is an easy way for hackers to get into their devices.
- Talk to your kids about identity theft: once a cybercriminal has their data, they can do things in their name and even hurt people – and it will be tough to stop.
What you can do to create a safe environment:
- Install a reliable antivirus program on your home computer and the devices of all family members.
- Install a VPN (a virtual private network) on your computer. This is a software that encrypts your connection and anonymizes your web browsing. It will make it far harder for hackers to access and steal any private information.
- If you and your kids use many different devices around the house, consider installing a VPN on your router. That way, all internet traffic that goes through the router will be protected without installing the VPN on every device.
- Install an ad blocker, so your children won’t have to face deceptive advertising that encourages them to download malicious programs onto your computer.
- If your kids have smartphones, make sure that their security settings are set to maximum.
Teach your children the importance of keeping their information and devices safe and secure when going online.
Viewing inappropriate content online
Because the internet is so open and public, it is also a place where kids can stumble upon content intended for adults – content that they may find upsetting, confusing, or distressing. “Inappropriate content” can mean many different people, from swearing to violence to sexual nature. Also, our kids might be exposed to political or religious ideas we don’t see fit for them.
It’s not easy, but eventually, every parent will need to have a conversation with his children about what they might see online. Many children don’t go to their parents when they see something they perhaps shouldn’t have seen, for fear that their parents will be angry at them, and take away their devices or internet access.
If your child comes to you with this type of issue, the best thing to do is to respond calmly and be open to discussion. If the content under discussion is sexual, your child will likely be embarrassed already, mainly when talking to their parents about these kinds of issues. Let them know you are there for them and are ready to answer any questions without judgment.
There are also several steps you can take to prevent your kids from being exposed to content they’re not ready for, like setting up parental controls on your internet connection. Remember, though, that technical fixes can’t replace open communication with your child.
Communicate with your child:
- Let your kids know that they can always come to you if something is bothering them or have questions about anything they have seen online.
- Let them know that it’s normal to be curious about sex. Direct them to positive online resources like Brook and Thinkuknow. Thinkuknow is particularly useful for younger children, and it includes different, age-appropriate sites for different age groups. You may find it helpful to look through the site together and discuss some of the issues.
Predators engage in a practice called ‘grooming.’ In other words, they attempt to form a relationship with a child to abuse them later.
The internet has made life a lot easier for child predators. Predators target their victims through any online mediums: social media, email, text messages, and more.
Predators often create multiple online identities, posing as children to trick kids into talking to them. They discover as much as possible about the children they are targeting by researching their social media profiles – Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, and others.
They may contact several children at once but tend to concentrate their efforts on the most vulnerable. These predators aren’t satisfied with merely chatting with children online. They frequently trick or coerce their victims into online sexual activity via webcam or by sending sexual images. They may also attempt to meet and abuse their victims in person.
What should you communicate with your child?
- Discuss with your child about the risks of online predators. Make sure they know to be careful about who they talk to online, and not to share any personal information with strangers.
- Tell your kids that they can come to you with any problem, no matter what it is.
- Think about working through some educational content with your children relating to this topic.
- If you think that your child is at risk, seek support from their school, a social worker, and the police.
The answer to the question posed, of how to make sure your kids are staying safe online is made far easier. Using a combination of various technologies, such as a VPN service, antivirus software, and a secure password generator, you can arm yourself and your child with the best possible defense and protection method for staying safe when online.