Over 45 million children use the Internet, and with summer vacation coming up, they will have even more free time to do so. Now is the time to learn how to keep your kids safe online, because the Internet is not going away, and neither is your child’s obsession with it. This week, OTELCO shares our top tips for keeping kids safe online.
Teach Your Kid About Online Safety
Making sure your kids know not to chat, direct message, Skype, Facetime, or email someone they don’t know is the first step to keeping them safe online. It is uncomfortable to talk about, but child predators are out there, and they are thriving on the Internet. Stress to your child that they should never meet someone they talked to online in real life or share their photo with a stranger.
Kids are never going to care about identity theft as much as you do, but they still need to know that online actions have real-life consequences. Explain that they should never open an email from someone they don’t know, or share personal information online, including:
- Full Names
- Phone Numbers
- School Info
Cyberbullying is another critical thing to talk to your child about, especially if they are going on social media. Talking to your child about cyberbullying can be awkward, but there are a lot of online resources to help, including stopbullying.gov and kidshealth.org. The most important things to instill in them is that they should never use the Internet to be unkind towards others and that they can come to you if they are experiencing online harassment.
Create a Clear Set of Cyber Rules
Setting clear boundaries, in the beginning, can save you time and effort in the long run. Time limits are a great place to start. When, where, and how often are your kids allowed online? An hour after school, two hours on the weekend? A highly recommended rule is that online use is limited to open areas, where you can easily see the screen.
Consider what sites you are comfortable having your kid visit, and how you want to monitor that. Social media is a very tricky world for parents to navigate, and even experts differ on how you should be monitoring their use. Some recommend you, at least, require your child to add you as a “friend” or “follower,” but even then, most teenagers can easily block you from seeing specific posts or stories. Maybe you insist that your kids share their login information with you so you can check in on what they are posting, or you use a third party app to monitor for you. These rules all depend on your parenting style.
Look into Parental Controls
Below is a table full of helpful links on how to set up parental control on a page, browser, operating system, and device level.
|Pages||Browsers||Operating Systems||Smart Devices||Gaming Consoles|
|Google Chrome||Mac||Apple Devices|
|Google Safe Search
|Netflix Parental Controls
|Amazon Prime||Internet Explorer||Amazon App Store|
In addition to all these parental controls, there are gadgets and apps designed explicitly for keeping kids safe online. PC Mag is an excellent source for technology reviews, and we highly recommend this article by them about the best parent control software of 2019.
Do Your Research
You can’t protect your child on the Internet if you don’t understand how they are using it. It is essential that you do at least some research. Visit the sites your kids are frequenting, investigate the Youtubers they love, read reviews about the games they are playing, and even make social media accounts on the platforms they are using. No one expects you to become an influencer or to start doing the obnoxious dances from Fortnight, but it is crucial that you know what those things mean.
A great way to start understanding the things your kids are into online is by asking them about it. Ask your child to show you how to play the game they are obsessed with or to explain their favorite website. Younger kids love to “teach” and will be eager to share with you what they love. Admittedly, your tween or teenager may give you some attitude, but it is still worth a try.
Use Your Best Judgement
At the end of the day, how you choose to regulate Internet use in your home is going to be based on your own best judgment. At a minimum, check your child’s browsing history, and pop over their shoulder now and then to see what they are doing. If they are slamming their screens down or frantically closing out of browsers that might be a sign that they are up to no good. Remember that, though privacy is important, your child’s safety is a priority, and above all, doing something is better than doing nothing at all.