The internet has become an essential part of not only your life but also your child’s. It is important to know how to protect your child online. However, everything has a silver lining. There are several risks that your child may face while online.
This includes everything from identity theft to online bullying. Along with all the positives also come malicious hackers and cyberbullying. Online games and social media may appear to be harmless, however, you never know what might happen if your child uses the internet unsupervised.
It’s important to teach your child how to be mindful of internet risks while still taking advantage of all of its opportunities. Here are 7 ways to protect your child while online.
Routines have shifted since the pandemic. Parents and children are working and attending school under one roof. Everyone is spending more time in front of the screen. However, children and technology analysts have recently called for a move away from counting screen time minutes and towards understanding how children use devices.
A strong rule of thumb is to allow your child to use the internet for exploration, sharing, development and communication outside of schoolwork. It’s fine to have fun from time to time but try to maintain a sense of harmony.
Discuss the Importance of Online Safety
The concept of cybersecurity can seem complicated for children. It does not have to be. Simply explain internet threats and cybersecurity in child-friendly terms.
You don’t need to use complicated words to describe how the internet works; instead, use plain language. The more you tell your child about cybersecurity, the better equipped they will be to protect themselves.
If you believe your child is mature enough to grasp cybersecurity terminology, there are plenty of resources available that you can use to better educate them. The FBI’s Safe Online Surfing website provides instructional games on safety for children in grades 3 through 8.
Maintain control of your child’s digital footprint
Any picture and personal information uploaded and shared on social media and the internet adds to a person’s digital footprint. The major danger here is that when information is exchanged online, it can be exploited in unexpected and uncontrollable ways. You should also know that everything you post on the internet is permanent.
As a result, children and teenagers should be cautious in protecting their photos and information. The same is true for parents who frequently share pictures of their children on social media.
To best protect your child online, teach them to keep their digital footprint under control by only communicating with those they know and trust. Instead of sharing to all of their social media contacts, advise them to be cautious and to use the privacy controls on the social media sites they use. If you come across any new friends, use Nuwber to confirm their identity and check if they really are the people they claim to be.
Establish rules for all digital devices
Resources like “The Smart Talk” can assist your family in developing guidelines for your digital devices. Common Sense Media, a non-profit that offers technical advice to families and businesses, has a plethora of resources available.
Online safety rules can differ depending on your child’s age, but more importantly, their maturity level. We advise parents to do whatever they believe is best for their child’s wellbeing. Parents are well aware that children of varying ages raised in the same family can have significantly different personalities.
With that in mind, here are few rules you may want to follow:
- Before using the computer, have your child ask for permission. Simply obtaining consent reinforces the idea that you are paying attention.
- Create a schedule. Set goals and a time frame for school work and leisure time. After school work is completed, device use is okay.
- Make family meals a screen-free zone. Set a good precedent by putting down your devices as well. This is an excellent time to discuss your child’s daily online experiences.
- Devices should be set aside for specific activities. For example, if your child has a tablet for schoolwork, it can not be used for gaming or connecting with friends.
Be social media savvy
Focus on educating yourself on how to stay safe on social media so that you can give your child the right advice. Sign up with the social networks and smartphones that your child uses and learn how to use the privacy preferences and monitoring processes. Discuss ways they can stay safe on social media, such as talking to a trustworthy person when they are concerned and understanding what constitutes cyber abuse – both as an offender and as a target.
If your child uses social media, make sure they understand how to:
- Report inappropriate or offensive content.
- Block unwanted users.
- Keep personal details confidential
Teach your child to keep their location private
Most apps, networks and smartphones have geotagging capabilities that publicize your location and can direct strangers to you. These functions should be disabled for obvious reasons. Metadata (information about the time, date and location) in digital images can show more than you want. Some social media sites mask or delete this data, but not all, so do your research to understand how much information you’re sharing.
Protect your child online by enabling parental control tools
Through tracking and supervising your child’s online actions, parental control tools and apps can add an additional layer of protection and minimize your workload. They can, for example, restrict screen time across various devices, enable safe search and filter content, and even monitor your child’s location. These tools can also track social media accounts, provide comprehensive reports and notify you of any incidents that need your attention.
As a parent, you should realize that you can no longer keep your child away from the internet. Excessively strict rules prohibiting them from engaging in any online activities can be unhealthy and deprive them of ways to learn and experience the digital world. For young children just beginning their online journeys, standing by them and leading them in their new world is often a safe choice.