8 Ways to Keep Your Kids Safe on the Internet

The Internet is a tool that has opened up unprecedented opportunities for kids to explore the world. But it has also spawned a variety of safety issues. Some parents have banned Internet use altogether, but most look for ways to find a balance between safety, and the need for kids to be computer-savvy in an increasingly high-tech world.

Here are some suggestions to help keep that balance:

Don’t Let Kids Surf Unattended

When your kids are young and first learning how to use a computer, don’t let them surf when they’re on their own. Instead, make computer time, “together time” and bond while you access different age-appropriate sites. Bookmark their favorite sites for them for easy access.

Teach them common sense rules:

  • Never share your personal information online (that includes name, address, and phone number)
  • Never engage in a conversation with someone you don’t know (even if they insist you do)
  • Never accept invitations to meet people that reach out to you on the Internet
  • Never share photos with people you don’t know
  • Never download or sign up for anything without permission
  • Never make rude remarks on other people’s content or pages
  • Tell your parents right away if anyone is rude or abusive to you

Most schools will have students sign an “rules for online conduct” agreement. Consider writing up one yourself and have your child sign it so that they know you mean business. Make sure they understand the repercussions if they break any of the rules.

As your child ages however, it is okay to let them use the computer on their own, provided you are able to monitor what they are doing online to some degree.

Have Access to their Accounts

Access is an important part of monitoring. Many parents don’t allow their children to have their own Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or email accounts. However, those who do allow them should be able to access them as well. You should be able to look at posts and other activities online but whether you want password access or not is up to you and the level of privacy you feel your child deserves.

Some parent require password access to be able to shut down accounts, but simply requiring your child to add you to their community should generally be enough. Make it clear from the outset that having access to their accounts is a prerequisite for setting up the account to begin with, this can help head complaints off at the pass.

While you shouldn’t abuse your access (i.e. read every single bit of email...they are allowed personal conversations after all), you can easily see if the content of their posts and who else is viewing them. Keep in mind, your kids will make mistakes...these are teachable moments. Keep your lines of communication open and help your kids understand what could be potentially harmful in a seemingly innocent post.

Keep It Private

If your child is using any of the wide variety of social networking apps out there, make sure they set their account to private. That way, they can monitor their followers and keep Internet trolls or predators off their accounts. Educate your child so that he or she knows that once something is up on the Internet, it can be there forever. Let them know how their posts can easily be captured by others and used in ways that they didn’t intend...whether it’s by some Internet creep, an ex boyfriend or girlfriend who feels slighted, or a mean kid at school.

Some apps like Snapchat have a geo feature (Snap Maps) that tracks the user’s location. To keep your kids safe, make sure to disable the feature by going into ‘Ghost Mode’ so that other users can’t see where your child is or where they’re going.

Use Filters

Let’s face it, there is a lot of stuff on the Internet that you simply don’t want your child to see just yet. Having filters on, especially ones that are designed to screen out explicit content, is a great safeguard for making sure that they don’t stumble onto websites that aren’t age-appropriate. Your child may not be seeking out explicit content but imagine if they searched images of “pearl necklace” for example...they could easily stumble on something inappropriate.

Recently, YouTube has removed ads from nearly 2 million videos and over 50,000 channels masquerading as family-friendly content. Violent, predatory videos that sexualized children have been masquerading as kids' entertainment on the platform. Videos that depict children in revealing clothing, distress, and abusive situations have received tens of millions of views on YouTube. The disturbing videos are disguised as family-friendly content with titles that use popular search terms like "learn colors" and Frozen's Elsa.

When it comes to YouTube specifically, here are some extra steps you can take to reduce the likelihood that your kids will come across any inappropriate content:

  • Enable the restrictive filter in your YouTube settings. 
  • Disable recommended videos.
  • Sign up for YouTube's ad blocker ($10 monthly subscription fee).
  • Disable search and create playlists of videos you approve instead.

Although filters and other measures free you up to some degree,  we suggest you continue to supervise your child’s Internet use, especially for the youngest kids.

Check Browser History Often

Another good habit to get into, especially if your child uses the Internet by themselves, is to check browser history. This will allow you to monitor the sites that your child visits and to make sure that they’re not exploring anything that’s unapproved. Checking in will help you stay in touch with what your child is doing online.

Limit Screen Time

Screen time should be limited no matter what. Spending hours on a computer often leads to a sedentary lifestyle, and the development of unhealthy habits that are going to be hard to break later on. However, if your children know from the beginning that they will only be able to be online for thirty minutes at a time, for instance, this decreases the chances of a conflict.

Agree on Which Internet Games Are Ok to Play

There are many educational games online that can help with reading, writing, math skills – or even topics like history or geography. Not all games are appropriate for children due to violent or explicit content, however. It’s best if you yourself look at these games ahead of time to make sure that you’re comfortable with your child using them. Also, be aware of which games allow players to communicate with others online. If you don’t want those conversations to happen, you may need to change the game’s setting or disable the game altogether.

Discuss Sharing Personal Information

Children, by nature, tend to be very trusting...Talk frankly to your children about giving out personal information of any kind when they’re online. This includes upcoming plans, information on parties, and even rants about friends, teachers, or parents. Let them know how this information can be used and abused by others online. This is probably one of the most important lessons you can teach them when it comes to Internet safety. When you check into their Facebook account, look over what they’ve posted on their wall to make sure they are complying with this rule.

What are some of your rules when it comes to Internet safety? Share them with us in the comments below!

Tags : life lessons   technology   Internet   safety   

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