How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online
You can’t lock kids out of the internet. But you can help them to be safe on it.
Even before the pandemic crisis, children were already connecting to the internet daily. According to ABS, ninety-seven percent of Aussie households with children under 15 years old have internet access. Each household has an average of 7 devices per household. Teenagers aged 15-17 are the highest users, spending up to 18 hours per week.
School closures because of COVID-19 mean kids are spending more time on the computer at home. Every kid knows the internet is a wonderful resource to learn, explore, socialise, and create. They are going to get online whether you like it or not. Parents cannot keep a 24/7 vigilance on their kids’ internet activities. But they can help their kids make smart choices when they are online.
Of course, you should install all the hardware (kids-friendly routers, but it’s more important to teach your kids how to be safe while they are online).
10 helpful tips to keep your kids safe online
Your support and guidance will give your kids the confidence to make smart decisions when they are on the internet. Here are some helpful tips to keep your kids safe online:
1. Adjust your approach
Sending your kids into the internet is like sending him/her out into the world. Different age groups require different levels of oversight to keep them safe on the internet. Even children within the same age group will require different approaches because of their personality and needs.
Start teaching your child about internet safety as early as possible. Point out the parallels between the real and the online worlds to your pre-schooler and talk to them about passwords, internet security, and safety. With older children, be sure to have a conversation about the consequences of sharing information online. Remember, whatever they post now will be captured permanently and can return to disrupt their lives in the future.
2. Check suitability
Choose apps and games that are age-appropriate for your children. Check the App Store or Google Play. Sources to help you determine the suitability of games and apps include the Australian Classification Board, NetAware (UK), Australian Council on Children as well as Common Sense Media (US).
3. Know your parental control
Some websites on the internet can look harmless but they are shells for not-so-innocent activities. Be wise about your parental controls/search restrictions on web browsers, internet search providers, and devices.
SafeSearch Filters on Google blocks sites with explicit sexual material. To turn it on, go to Settings/SafeSearch Filters. You can also pay a small fee for additional security tools and features.
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4. Know your kids’ online activities
Get to know the devices your kid is using. Find out who he/she is interacting with online. Children may resist but tell them this is a condition to use their devices. Younger children will need more vigilant monitoring of their internet time. Put home computers in a spot where you can easily keep an eye on what they are viewing. For mobile devices, set up WI-FI password forget functions so your child cannot go online without your knowledge. Younger children using the internet should have their browsing histories checked to see what sites they have visited.
These strategies become harder as children grow older. That is why it is so important to open the lines of communication with them about internet safety.
5. Get involved
Be open and supportive of your kids’ online usage. Find ways to share online time with the kids (for example, jointly researching a topic they are doing for their homework, looking for movies to watch together as a family, shopping online, and so forth). Be sure to have the occasional conversations about what they are doing online, who they are interacting with, and whether they have any issues. If you notice a change in their behaviours, talk to them about it. If you are concerned, consider seeking professional help – your GP, the school counsellor or a psychologist.
6. Teach your kids about share aware and location
There are risks to sharing information on the internet. Young children may not understand the consequences of posting information, but you can teach them how to be cautious about what they post. Ask them to show you the photographs they are posting online. Check their platforms to see what they are sharing. Teach them to think about what they are sharing online. If they are not comfortable with it in real life, then they should not be putting it on the web.
Apps, networks, and devices use geo-tagging features to discover your whereabouts. Teach your kids to turn off these features.
7. Keep control of digital footprint
Images shared online have metadata. Start on the premise that everything shared can become permanent. Teach your kids to be smart about protecting their images and information by sharing only with people they know and trust. Instead of posting to everyone on social, get them to be selective and to use privacy settings when sharing.
8. Be social savvy
Social networks are ubiquitous. You cannot stop your kids from going online. Be sure you are on their friends/followers list so you can monitor their activities. Teach them about privacy settings, blocking messages, and reporting mechanisms. Encourage them to talk to you or someone they trust when they are worried or upset.