August 17, 2020
In 2018, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that 94% of children access the internet using their mobile phone or a personal computer. The age range of the children is from ten to eighteen, with a majority using the internet for education and entertainment purposes. Although the positive effects of the internet outweigh the negative, parents must keep an eye on their children when online. Fortunately, ensuring your child’s online safety is possible by incorporating some preventive measures in your home.
Keep computers in the home within common areas
Place computers used by children in a visible place within a room so that you can quickly glance at the screen while passing by. Most children will use computers for the intended purpose when they know an adult is looking over them. In case they have to move to another area of the house, consider setting aside time to monitor them for a little while until they get back to the designated area. Experts recommend that you avoid placing a computer in your child’s room as it can cause anxiety and sleep loss, as well as reduce your ability to keep an eye on their internet use. If you do allow them to use a computer in their room, consider getting a laptop so that they can easily change locations and spend a limited amount of time by themselves.
Improve your internet and computer knowledge
It is a fact that adults are at a disadvantage compared to kids when it comes to learning about technology and the internet. Today’s kids and teens are known as digital natives, as they were born in a millennium where computers have always existed. To keep apace with your child’s ever-expanding tech knowledge, you need to learn more about the internet and the many offerings found on different platforms, such as TikTok, Discord, Instagram, and other social media. The best place to start is by reading through various online resources, consulting your service provider, and discussing with other parents their challenges and wins. The more you know, the better you can guide your children on online matters.
Go online with your children
Browsing the web as a family both for educational and entertainment purposes is important for online child safety. Parents that regularly spend time surfing the internet with their kids make it easier to monitor their behavior online without them feeling easy. Your children will also approach you with problems that need solving online when you look like you understand what’s going on. Make time to help with homework online as a way of bonding between you and your child while ensuring they are safe online.
Set limits for computer usage
Rules give children an idea of what is and isn’t allowed in the home. The same applies to their use of their internet on a computer or mobile device. Ensure that you have a set time that they can use the computer for both personal and educational purposes. Limits may be flexible when researching information for school work but you need to monitor if it is being used for the right purposes. You can extend the time your child uses the computer when you know they are accessing quality content. Additionally, setting limits for internet use varies based on the age of the child and their computer knowledge.
Educate your child about online dangers
Parents realize that their child’s digital safety is important. At the same time, children also need to understand the dangers they may face online and the steps they can take to avoid becoming a victim. Take time and have a discussion with your kids about internet dangers and be as honest as possible. Point out the kind of things they need to avoid so that they stay away from them at all times. Children that are forewarned are better prepared should they ever face cyberbullying or solicitations from shady internet “friends”.
Encourage responsible chat room participation
The likelihood of your child joining an online chat room when surfing the web is high. There are a myriad of anonymous chat rooms targeted at kids. While such chat rooms themselves might not be overly risky, the chance that a stranger will send an external link to Zoom or Google Hangouts is something to be wary of. Children need to understand that people in these discussion forums are strangers no matter how friendly they seem online. Regularly inquire if they have been contacted by anyone online and make a habit of scanning their recent history to check if they have logged into chat rooms.
Prohibit giving out personal information online
Children are innocent and may not understand the consequences of providing personal information to strangers online. Forbid your children from giving out their home address, school location, or phone number to strangers online. It does not matter whether they have been talking for a while, such information should never be shared at all. Go one step ahead and ban meetings in person with “friends” they meet online and when unsure they should consult you or a trusted adult.
Don’t share photos online
In the age of social media, it is common for youngsters to share photos and videos of themselves with friends. However, it is important to make your child understand that uploading their photos to online sites is prohibited. Most times, predators share their photos in the hope that the child will do the same and as a result gain their trust. In case your child starts to receive photos from strangers, it is important to have it checked out by your provider. Also, ask your child to stop communicating with them immediately with the stranger and block them from contacting your kid.
Parents (and grandparents) also need to refrain from posting photos of their kids. Not only can predators learn more about your child from such photos, but you’re also creating a digital footprint that will follow your child throughout their life.
Invest in online parental controls
Leaving your child to make decisions on their use of the internet can be unwise especially when they are young. Parents need to have some control over internet use in the home and exercise it when necessary for the safety of their children. Tools that allow parents to block some websites, filter information, and monitor their child’s use when online is important if your children are to remain safe. Talk to your internet provider to learn about the parental control tools available and learn how to use them effectively.
Monitor social media pages
Social media has become another platform through which predators approach children to harm them. The many social media sites can be overwhelming for any parent but with some bit of research you can find out the popular ones for youngsters. Talk to your child on the dangers of social media and give them tips on the best ways to stay safe. If you want more control over their social media use, consider installing an application that gives you information on their online activities.
Teach children to identify cyberbullying
The cases of cyberbullying are increasing worldwide with children becoming victims of anonymous bullies. The bullies who are often anonymous use the opportunity to say harmful things about whomever they like and this affects the child negatively. Parents need to help their kids to quickly spot bullies online and report them immediately. Also, make sure your child understands that you will take their side at all times in case they are cyberbullied for any reason.
Ultimately, online child safety is a team effort between the parents and children with the former taking the larger share of responsibility. Children that understand the need to stay safe online get to enjoy the benefits the internet offers while keeping away from its dangers.
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