As your children grow up, technology will become an increasing part of their world. While every parent hopes their child will never encounter inappropriate content, cyberbullying or online scams, these dangers are out there.
Luckily, there are certain steps you can take to promote online safety and help your children have a positive online experience. Here are five things you can do to keep kids safe online.
Keep Electronics Out of the Bedroom
It’s hard to keep kids safe online if they can use the Internet behind closed doors. Keep the computer in a communal area so you can monitor your child’s activity. Even if they complain, remind them that you’re not snooping, but looking out for their safety.
In addition to computers, don’t allow your children to keep other electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, TVs and video game consoles in their room. If they have free reign of the electronics, there’s no way to manage their usage. Keeping these devices in the bedroom can also have a negative effect on sleep and school performance.
Use Internet Filters and Parental Controls
While most parents hope their kids are using age-appropriate sites, there’s a lot of adult content on the Internet, and your kids can find it, purposely or accidentally. Luckily, you can use parental controls to block access to certain websites, social networks and mobile applications.
Setting up parental controls will give you peace of mind that you have some authority over your child’s online activity. You can keep kids safe online by setting up controls for your operating system, modifying your search options, and enabling access settings on smartphones and tablets. Also, make sure to check with your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and mobile carrier for additional security options.
Create Strong Passwords
This strategy is two-fold: You must create strong passwords to safeguard your personal data and sensitive information, and you must teach your children the importance of creating strong passwords and never giving their passwords to anyone else. Your passwords protect your accounts from hackers and cyber criminals, so it’s important to create a strong, unique password for each online account. The less pronounceable your password the better (go crazy with numbers and special characters when allowed). Ideally, each password should be longer than 10 characters.
Also, enable passwords on your filters and parental controls – they won’t do you much good if your child can access them and change them. If you struggle to remember your passwords, get a password manager which allows you to set one master password in order to unlock all of your accounts.
Make sure you and your children are aware of the methods cybercriminals use to steal passwords and sensitive information, like email and phishing scams. To keep kids safe online, teach them how to spot suspicious emails, encourage them to avoid strangers online and remind them that companies and websites will never ask for their password via email.
Set the Rules and Lead by Example
Besides the dangers that lurk online, you may want to limit your child’s screen time. According to the Mayo Clinic, excessive screen time can lead to obesity, irregular sleep schedule, behavioural problems and loss of social skills. Lay down some ground rules. Aside from homework, determine how much time your children can spend on the computer. Also, consider how much time you’d like them to use other electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and TVs.
Once you’ve determined the rules, set a good example for your children. Encourage interaction during family time and engage in conversation instead of looking at your smartphone. If your kids notice you prioritising family time and face-to-face communication, they will learn to emulate your behaviour and value family interaction.
Encourage Open Communication
In some cases, you may be unaware if your child stumbles upon something he shouldn’t or is mistreated or bullied online. At least 20 percent of kids will receive harassing, hateful, or insulting messages via social networks, emails, instant messages, videos, and texts, according to Norton.
Unfortunately, many kids are afraid to tell their parents about something that happened online because they fear they will get in trouble. To keep kids safe online, encourage open and honest communication about online activity and interactions. Remind your child that you want to help them, not punish them. If they’re mistreated online, they should let you know immediately so you can take the necessary steps to help them.
While you can’t control all of your child’s online activity, you can help them make smart decisions and practice safe behaviours. Make sure you educate yourself on the websites and social platforms kids are using so you can be aware of potential threats. Communicate with your child’s teachers and school administrators so you can stay in the loop to protect your children and help them have a safe, positive online experience.