According to a study on children’s internet behavior conducted by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education, 29% of the U.S. kids in 4th to 8th grades use the internet in a manner their parents wouldn’t approve of. About 21% of them use websites to chat with strangers and another 17% visit websites with explicit sexual content. 11% of these kids look out online for instructions to cheat on the schoolwork while 4% of them even visit gambling websites.
With our children getting easy access to computers, mobile phones and smart devices, it’s getting increasingly important to keep them safe online. Whether your kids do not heed to your warnings or you are not able to get the message across in an effective manner, understand that the loss is ultimately yours. Here are some basic tips you may want to follow in order to keep your kids safe online.
Talk to your kids
Be friendly with your kids so that they do not feel uneasy to share anything unusual with you. Reassure them that they can always approach, report and talk to you about any issue that makes them uncomfortable. Create awareness about online threats, crimes and security issues.
Keep the conversation interactive so that you get to learn their mind and they do not feel like they are just listening to a usual boring lecture from their parents. Hold family discussions on related topics like what sites are safe to browse, which apps should be avoided, how children are falling prey to online crimes, etc.
If your kids mostly need online access for educational purposes, an Education Technology Consultant can help you with the installation and monitoring of appropriate education applications and proper configuration of the device for a safe, secure and effective learning environment.
Let your children browse in a common area
Instead of letting your children use computers, laptops and smart phones privately, make sure they are using the internet from a common area where you can easily supervise them. Avoiding placing a computer in your child’s room and don’t let them go to bed with a laptop or a phone. This way, you can prevent online bullies and offenders from harassing your kids since you can easily see your kid’s activities.
Find out which other computers and devices your kids use to go online, maybe at school and at their friends’ home. You may then want to discuss with their friends’ parents about the precautionary measures they use for the safety of their own kids.
Teach your kids about privacy protection
Kids are usually too young to understand the implications of sharing their personal information. You should make them aware about the risks of giving out their passwords, name, age, contact number, etc. to someone else online without your permission. Ask them not to open emails from strangers, download attachments, or respond to any disturbing messages. Under no circumstances should they meet anyone they have befriended online, not at least without your knowledge. And when you allow your kids to do so, make sure you accompany them.
Train your kids on using proper privacy settings and some basic functions like blocking and reporting someone on various websites and mobile applications that they use.
Supervise your child’s internet usage history
Keep an eye on what websites and social media platforms your child uses. Periodically check out their browsing history. Your internet service provider may have given you some filters and options for parental control through Wi-Fi router setting or through your ISP account. Understand and use such controls to block inappropriate content. If you need your kids’ password or already have it, let them know about it since doing so without their knowledge may weaken their trust in you.
Observe the changes in your kids’ behavior
Is your child withdrawing from family or being secretive about their online activities? Observing personality changes in your kids can help you identify whether they are being victimized online or need any other help. Look out for any gifts they might have received from their online “friends.” Predators often send gifts to seduce children. Here is more information on how violent extremists make contact.
Always stay alert and if you think that your kid is being victimized, report it to the police.