Keeping Kids Safe Online

In today’s society, the concern for kid’s online behavior is rising. More information is available than ever before, and at the simple touch of a button, your kids can be exposed to numerous risks; cyberbullying, online predators, exposure to inappropriate content, and potentially worse.

As a parent, it’s scary trying to navigate the ever-changing landscape that is the online world. However, it’s crucial to your kid’s safety that you keep the lines of communication open and continue to learn more about the things that your kids have access to.

Practical, actionable advice for doing so can often be hard to come by, so keep reading for some useful tips on keeping your kids safe online.

photo courtesy of Unsplash

Safe Use of Social Media

When it comes to online safety for kids, it is crucial to address the impact that social media sites have. There are several positive effects that social media can have on a child. It can strengthen awareness within a community, aid in connecting with loved ones and friends, and help students stay abreast of what’s going on in society. However, when kids interact with social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, they can be completely exposed to inappropriate, hurtful or possibly dangerous content.

Set a Solid Foundation of Trust and Communication

It’s imperative that your child knows they can go to you with their problems and that you will listen when they need help. When your kids feel like they can confide in you in times of question or concern, they will be more likely to come to you about any problems they might be facing, online or in real-life. Instruct your child to come straight to you when they see anything that makes them uncomfortable, and assure them that you won’t overreact, place blame, or immediately rescind their online privileges.

Be Aware of Facebook Depression

Sadly, this is a very real, very sad type of clinical depression. Researchers say that when looking at a happy event happening in someone else’s life, kids with poor self-esteem have the propensity to feel even worse.

If you see this feeling starting to surface, be sure to explain to your child that social media is not a true reflection of a person’s everyday life, but the perception that they want you to see.

photo courtesy of Unsplash

Set House Rules

Another way to ensure your child’s online safety is to talk with them before setting up and logging onto his or her computer. Setting basic rules for Internet access can go a long way toward building a nurturing online environment in your home.

Decide how much you’re comfortable with your children being online, and which of the sites they are, and are not allowed going to. You can post a list of these sites next to the computer so there are no questions about where they are allowed going- and make consequences for not following the guidelines. Some parents have their children sign contracts promising to practice online safety.

The Family Online Safety Institute offers a template for this on its website, but you can find them elsewhere, or even create your own to fit your family. The lines you draw are up to you; the important thing is for you and your kids to know exactly what they are.

Some families set a rule that the kids can’t play online until all their homework is done. Other families limit computer time to one hour a day. It’s completely up to you to figure out what works for your family.

Teach Your Kids to Protect Their Privacy

While most kids don’t fully understand the consequences of revealing personal information online, parents still should make sure that their children know the following:

  • Never give their name, phone number, email address, passwords, or pictures to anyone without explicit parental permission
  • Never open emails or messages from people they don’t personally know
  • Never respond to disturbing or hurtful messages
  • Never, under any circumstance, meet up with anyone they meet with online

Start the conversation about the public nature of the internet early on with your kids. Learn about and teach your kids how to use privacy and security settings on their favorite online games, apps and platforms.

Pay attention to and know the online environments your children use. In the real world, there are good and bad neighborhoods, and the online world is no different. Help them to identify safe and trusted websites and apps. Encourage them to be cautious about clicking on, downloading, posting and uploading content.

photo courtesy of Unsplash

Make a Computer Schedule

Setting an internet schedule, or a window of time when your child has internet access, is another great option for keeping your child safe online. Similar to blocking websites and keywords, you can set up access times through your router or internet service provider’s security app.

With an internet schedule, your child will only be able to browse the internet during designated times.

Don’t Just Tell Them the Rules, Work with Them.

Modern technology is an ever-evolving beast. Often you will have to make sure you continue to educate yourself.

Children tend to imitate the behavior of their parents, so make an effort to practice what you preach when it comes to online safety and security.

Follow your child on their social media accounts. This not only does it allows you to monitor what they share, but it allows you to present them with a good example of what is appropriate social media behavior, and perhaps improve your bond with them. If your child sees that you are having fun AND being safe, they will more easily follow in your footsteps.

Get them involved with maintaining the security of the home computer. Teach them how to check that the virus protection is up to date. For older children, give them some responsibility regarding internet security, and reward them for it.