The Internet is undoubtedly one of the most useful things in this world. But along with its benefits also come certain dangers, making it a double-edged tool. Internet usage entails risks, making kids (who are digital natives) particularly vulnerable. This is why we adults, especially parents, have to be responsible in keeping them safe from the dangers of the Internet.
Good news is you don't have to be “techie” to help make the Internet safe for your child. Below are some tips:
You may allow kids to spend time online but set limitations and require that they finish important tasks first. An example is letting them play games and watch kid-friendly videos online for an hour - after they finish their homework. This is also a good way to teach them responsible freedom.
If your kids go online simply to watch videos, consider downloading their favorites so they can see it offline, free from the dangers of potentially harmful ads and strangers trying to contact them. Watch what you downloaded up to the last frame to filter the content.
Seeing the video also lets you ‘be in’ to the interests of your child, which is a conversation starter that your kid would appreciate.
3. Keep them in sight
Location is crucial. Place the computer in a common space where family members usually linger. This will help adults closely monitor what your child has been doing, making him less likely to browse questionable content.
If your child uses a smartphone to access the Internet, it would help to set rules that he cannot bring it to a different room, away from adults.
See who they talk to online and have them remove those who they haven’t met in person. Also check the browser history to have an idea about what they browse. If you find something you do not like, start a friendly conversation with them by probing if they visited anything new. Ask them why and make sure to suggest alternative kid-friendly sites.
Help them understand why specific sites are harmful, instead of telling them that it will make you angry if they visit it.
Parental controls let you limit what can be downloaded or purchased by your child online. It can also set restrictions in screen time. Google Play and iOS each have specific settings for this, and the same goes for select gaming devices like PlayStation and Nintendo Switch.
Steps on how to turn on parental controls can be easily Googled.
6. Join their world
Get immersed in their online playground by scheduling playtime or viewing marathons with them. Enjoying the online world with your child is a great way to make sure that they have a safe journey, while also building fond memories for them to cherish.
For older kids who have social media accounts, befriend them on different channels. Social media has become a tool for self-expression, giving you a more privy look at your child’s online behavior, their interests, and circle of friends. Doing this will give you a personal perspective on how to tread the topic of Internet safety with him or her.
Try to explain things to your child with the intention of teaching rather than preaching. An easy way to describe proper Internet etiquette to a child is to tell that you don’t do online what should not be done face to face.
Ask them: would you approach a stranger and start a conversation? Would you share your personal information like name, age, and address? Would you accept a gift from someone you do not know? Would you go somewhere dangerous? Just like in real life, instruct your child to inform you or any guardian if a stranger talks to them online.
Teach good digital citizenship to kids by being a good example. As much as you want your child to follow what you want them to do online, be mindful of your online activities as well. Let your kids know what you want to share about them and don’t post it if they consider it too personal.
Don’t encourage kids to lie about their age just to be able to create a social media account. And when you are at home, lessen the time you tune in to your gadgets because your rules about tech & Internet usage must apply to the whole family.
Being there for your kid is at the core of making them understand these rules. It’s easy for us, parents, to get obsessive with tracking our child’s activities but this is not the best use of the time we could’ve spent with them. The goal is not just to enforce guidelines, but to be present every step of the way. We each draw our distinctive lines and the key is for us and our kids to know where we should stand.