Is the thought of your tech-savvy kids coming into contact with something harmful online keeping you up at night? We understand. Keeping your kids safe from outside threats used to be simple. Back then, it was common practice among responsible parents to get to know their kids friends’ and their parents, create a network of people looking out for one another’s children, and set limits as to when and where the kids could play. But for better or for worse, times have changed.
In the vast sea of the interwebs, it’s become much more challenging to keep our children safe from predators and negative influences. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, however. To help you sleep better at night, here are seven best practices that can greatly reduce the risk of your child coming into contact with something (or someone) nefarious online:
There’s one thing that hasn’t changed about keeping your kids safe—you have to be present in order to protect them. When it comes to reducing your kids’ chances of coming into contact with something less than desirable online, supervision is key. Let your children know that they are not to be online unless a parent or trusted adult is at home. Children are notorious for getting themselves into trouble when left to their own devices, whether intentional or not.
Too much secrecy can be a bad thing in terms of any aspect of a parent-child relationship, but this is especially true when it comes to the Internet. That’s why it’s highly advisable that you create an open environment for online interactions. Translation—put the family PC in the living room or other common area, and if your children have laptops, don’t allow them to use these devices in their rooms or other private places. Too many parents make the mistake of being overly trusting of their children only to regret it after the harm has already been done.
Talk about it
A little chit-chat can go a long way. Talk to your child about both the benefits and dangers of the Internet and advise them as to how to use this tool for their benefit and not their detriment. If you approach the subject lovingly and reasonably, you might be surprised to find out how receptive your children are to your advice.
Yes, technology has its benefits and can be an excellent learning tool. One might even argue that by “playing” on the computer, youngsters are training themselves for a future in a highly advanced workforce. But too much technology isn’t good for anyone, adults or children. It’s imperative to set some boundaries in terms of how much time your child can spend online every day, and then stick to them. Although it’s certainly a personal decision, UCLA Health System (2008) recommends no more than an hour or two per day.
Lead by example
We all know that the “do as I say, not as I do” approach falls on deaf ears with little ones. Like all other creatures, they learn best by example. Sometimes those lessons are good, and sometimes, we unintentionally pass on bad habits to our ever-observant children. If you want your children to use the web for the right purposes and in the right doses, then you need to do so yourself.
Consider the source
Many parents, especially those with older children, make the mistake of assuming that the computer is the only device that requires monitoring. In our increasingly digital world, however, this is certainly not the case. Smartphones, game consoles, and even some televisions have Internet capabilities, so be sure that you’re using the practices above to provide adequate supervision for these avenues as well.
Use the right tools
Although there are many effective strategies for keeping your kids safe online, even the most watchful eye can miss an online search or social media interaction that could be potentially harmful. After all, parents are human, and we all make mistakes from time to time. As a result, it’s a good idea to install a software program like Qustodio on the computer your child uses to access the Internet. Qustodio gives you more control over the content your child views online by allowing you to block certain types of websites and providing you access to reports detailing how much time your child is spending online and precisely which websites he or she is viewing.
We all want to protect our kids, but with technology changing so rapidly, it’s hard to know exactly what to do to ensure children’s safety once they’ve entered the vast realm of the world-wide web. Fortunately, once you’re armed with a few best practices and our free parental control and internet monitoring app, you can rest easy knowing that your child is able to experience the entertainment and education the Internet has to offer in a way that is completely safe and secure.