Five Tips For Parents In Keeping Their Children Safe Online
Parents need to check out the Internet in the same way they would check out a playground to make sure that it is safe for their kids. The online world has a unique set of perils that await both young and old, with the additional difficulty posed by the distance and relative anonymity that many cybercrime perpetrators enjoy. Given this, how can parents keep their tech-savvy kids safe? Read on for five simple tips that any parent can do to help make online time a safe time for their children.
1. Talk to your children about staying safe online
Parents should take the lead in teaching their kids responsible behavior online, instead of leaving this task to their classrooms or worse, their friends! Having discussions with kids about how to use the Internet properly is the first and easiest step to help ensure their safety while logged on. Things to discuss with kids include the importance of keeping confidential personal details such as names, birthdays, and addresses, as well as what kinds of online behavior, are red flags or warning signs. This will help youngsters realize that they can go to their parents for advice and guidance, instead of turning to an “adult” in a chat room or messaging service. The door should always remain open for future discussions about content and other issues that may come up when using the Internet.
2. Have clear limits on the amount of time spent with a screen
Especially at a young age, kids should not be allowed to remain glued to a computer, tablet, or a phone without a set time limit. Enforcing clear time limits such as 30 minutes to 1 hour per day on school days, and 1 to 2 hours on weekends reduces the window wherein kids can fall prey to online predators. It will also teach them to prioritize their online tasks instead of falling into the trap of aimless surfing and chatting. Limiting screen time also has its benefits in kids’ cognitive growth and development and increases their attention span.
3. Check in on them while they are logged on
It is important to remain close by or at least within reach while a kid is using the Internet if only to make sure he or she is not illicitly logging on to something dangerous. Placing the computer or Internet router in a central place in the house helps make monitoring easier. Parents should be ready to quickly respond if the kid has questions about something frightening or worrisome online. A caveat though: monitoring does not mean looking continually over a child’s shoulders; there is a difference between checking in on them and outright snooping.
4. Use safe search features
Most search engines such as Google have settings to help screen out objectionable and dangerous content such as pornography. These restrictions can be readily customized to cover both text and image content. However, parents must always check that these screening settings are enforced; children can easily learn to bypass or switch the settings off at a click of a button.
5. Consider installing filtering software
Although filters are not, and should not be a replacement for parental guidance, these savvy programs are a great aid for sifting through the ocean of online content. These filters are programmed to blacklist and block out content from certain types of sites and can also be customized to also prevent access to chatrooms and other web tools. Some of these programs are stand-alone, while others are bundled in with antivirus and antimalware packages. Look up programs such as CyberPatrol or antivirus services such as Kaspersky and Norton to see which services best suit your family’s online needs.
The landscape of the Internet is continually changing, and it is up to parents to stay one step ahead of anything that may harm their kids. Although many tools exist to help ensure children’s online safety, nothing can replace parental guidance and vigilance. The best part about parental guidance is that it sets the foundations for kids to become responsible web users as they grow up. Now that is something that no program can beat!