The internet is a fantastic tool for children, with educational tools, games and plenty of age-appropriate entertainment available. But it’s also full of content that is completely unsuitable for kids. Perhaps worse, it can be a digital stomping ground for bullies and predators. As parents, it’s our job to keep our kids as safe online as we do everywhere else. Here are some tips on making sure their internet experience is a positive one.
First, talk about it
Make your expectations clear by discussing with your children how much time they are allowed to spend online each day, and what kinds of websites and content you’re happy for them to access. Tell them about online bullying, how to recognise it, and what to do about it if someone is harassing them. Also, be sure to let them know that not everyone they meet online is trustworthy, and to exercise caution when dealing with anyone they don’t know in real life.
Make sure they’re secure
If they’re setting up social media profiles, make sure that their personal information, friend lists, and the photos of them and their friends are set to private. Teach them the importance of using a strong password and keeping it secret.
Be “share aware”
Make sure your kids are aware of the importance of protecting their personal details like their birthday, what school they go to, where they live, their phone number, their login details or their full name. They shouldn’t share any information that could enable people to find them or guess their passwords.
Keep an eye on them
If you have a computer for the kids to use, place it in an area of the house where you can keep a watchful eye on the sorts of sites they’re accessing, and how much time they’re spending online. If they’re using mobile devices, it may be advisable to restrict their use in unsupervised areas like bedrooms, especially for younger children.
Lead by example
It’s hard to enforce good online habits if you’re not practising them yourself. Think twice about using your devices at the dinner table or spending too much time on social media. Make sure you’re setting a good example by observing proper internet security practices.
Let technology help you
For a fee, there are plenty of parental control programmes available that can do things like content filtering, time management and parental reporting for both desktop and mobile devices. Some of these offer free versions with more limited features, if you want to try before you buy. You can also install mobile apps like YouTube Kids which only offer family-friendly choices, and don’t forget to log into your browser’s settings and turn the safe searching options on.
In the future, technology will be even more seamlessly integrated into our kids’ lives than it is now, so teaching them to use it safely when they’re young will get them off to a great start.