The internet is an amazing crowded space just like sand on a beach when it comes to learning new things, meeting new people and having fun.
According to Internet Live Stats, there are over 4.2 billion internet users and a staggering 2 billion Google searches every day.
So, you ask, “Is it possible to allow my kids access to the internet while also protecting them from the many internet hazards?”
YES, you can!
And, here’s how to do it.
Keep A Check On Your Kids
Research what social media platforms or apps your kids are most active on and look into why it’s their favourite. Wondering how to do that?
Well, simply asking, “Hey Tom, what apps and social media platforms do you like the most” is a good first step in the right direction.
When they tell you, don’t just store up the information and move on.
Make it your duty to know how the platforms or apps they like work; have a good grasp of what can be done on such platforms; and finally, go one step further and install the app on your device so you can keep abreast of updates or new functions that may potentially pose a threat to your kid’s e-safety.
Interact Often with Your Kids
Discover and show genuine interest in what your kids are interested in and use the platforms or apps with them.
For instance, if your kids like being on Instagram, find out the images they like looking at, post pictures with them and even seek their counsel when posting. That way, you gain their trust and also stay on top of things.
And, once you have their trust, you can begin gradually shaping what they do by guiding them on what you think is appropriate to see or share online.
Keep the social interaction with your kids alive and bubbling through regular conversations. Be sensitive and encourage them when they come to you to discuss or show you something they don’t understand or that upsets them online. This gives them that assurance that you’d always be there to listen to them — without fear of harsh judgement.
Do this and you’re on the right path to Good Digital Parenting.
Go Big on Parental Control
We live in a technology-driven world that keeps evolving, every day. Not only are things changing, but the change is also so rapid that your kids get exposed to so many things at the click of a button. This is where parental control comes in.
Kids tend to master and become tech-savvy faster than adults. It’s therefore important to always update our knowledge as well. You can only control what you have knowledge of right? Exactly.
So, here’s what you should do with Parental Control Settings:
- Enable content lock on smart devices.
- Set restrictions on broadband.
- Control apps and in-apps purchases/downloads.
- Enable privacy settings on social media networks.
- Ensure safety mode is enabled on entertainment channels and search engines.
You’re thinking, “This is a lot of work.” But not to worry; here’s a great resource to get you started on setting parental controls, quick and easy.
Set Realistic Boundaries with Your Kids
Instead of becoming over-protective and placing heavy restrictions on your kids’ access to the internet, you should involve them while setting reasonable boundaries.
How to know if the rules are effective? By checking to make sure they’re adhering to it of course! Don’t simply make it a set-and-forget kind of thing.
Setting these rules with your kids is also a great way to communicate the consequences of not following it. Also, consider your kids’ age and level of maturity as you set or update these boundaries.
Restrictions come in handy especially when your kids start to use their smart devices under little or no supervision. As they advance through school they may have access to more advanced mobile technologies like tablets and laptops for classroom work involving research and you’ve to make sure you’re controlling their level of at this point as well.
As a rule of thumb, always revisit and update the rules when a new smart device is brought into the home. New MacBook for Christmas? An iPad as graduation gift? An iPhone as birthday present? It’s time to revisit your agreement and revise accordingly.
Reaching an agreement on digital boundaries with your kids would in turn help them in making smarter choices when it comes to what they share on the internet or who they interact with.
Creating rules isn’t going to be difficult as you can use this plan as a guide to setting one with your kids.
Setting goals related to screen time would actually be fun as screen time data gives information on how and when we use our devices. This would be a great learning moment for you and your kids.
Keep Your Kids Informed about Internet Risk and Safety
As kids spend more time on the internet, they’d likely come across a number of online issues and it’s essential for them to know how to deal with them.
Prevention is better than cure. As caring parents, we have to be one step ahead of kids at all times. With this in mind, it’s essential to discuss about the risks or hazards that exist online with our kids plus how they can become and remain protected.
Let your kids understand the consequences of what they share online and why they need to be “nice online”. If you suspect they are being cyberbullied, you can use these conversation starters’ tips to help them open up to you.
Dealing with kids experiencing cyberbullying can be challenging but it’s necessary and doable.
Don’t stop them from using the internet so they don’t end up feeling isolated which would only make things worse.
Support and encourage them and report cases where necessary. Keep all evidence and block the bullies on your kids’ social pages.
Let your kids understand that they’re likely to come across things that they’d likely not want to see or you don’t want them seeing. This should always be a regular conversation.
Explain to them what age limits mean especially on entertainment channels like YouTube, and why they exist.
Always make your kids feel comfortable when they ask you about things they find upsetting online. Be kind and keep them informed of what good online reputation means.
“You can’t believe everything you see online”, should be a gentle reminder you give to them regularly especially when they see something that ‘’looks too good to be true’’.
Be creative with conversations relating to online safety. You could even make use of storybooks to make starting conversations easier and more engaging.
You should explore safe social networking sites with your kids and allow them to make choices of which ones they’d like to try.
Don’t shy away from checking/monitoring what your kids do online. You might call this snooping but in fact, it’s a lot more like caring.
Get Familiar with Online Protection Aids for Kids
Keeping up with groups like FOSI, Cyberbully Institute, Internet Keep Safe Coalition (IKeepSafe) or NetFamilyNews would keep you updated on trends and studies that’d come in handy in making decisions that’d help you and your kids.
These groups are non-profit organisations dedicated to ensuring that the online environment stays safe for kids. They also ensure that parents stay updated on how to be involved and stay interested in the online activities of their kids.
There are also laws that exist to protect your kids from exploitation whilst they’re surfing the internet. For example, in the USA, there is a Federal law called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
This law was designed to protect preteens – kids younger than 13 – whilst surfing the internet and prevent anyone from getting their personal details without the knowledge of their parents.
Do your research and find out if such or similar protection laws exist in your area, the procedures involved, and how your kids can benefit from them.
Take advantage of online protection tools to ensure your kids stay safe each time they surf the internet. These tools protect your kids from adult content and predators lurking around the internet.
Just like in the physical world, we always want our kids to be safe, even when they are on the playground, but there’re even more hazards online that we need to protect them from. E-safety for kids is an enlightening process for parents and kids alike.
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