Finally! After over a year of home schooling, most kids are returning to the classroom. Learning might not be online this fall, but your kids will likely still be tethered to the Internet. While there are many positives about the Internet, for parents there are many pitfalls and dangers you must be aware of to keep your kids safe virtually.
In the old days parents worried about strangers and bullies, but in today’s online world, there are so many more potential threats parents have to navigate from identity theft, to privacy and adults masquerading as kids.
Clearly, it’s important for parents to take an active role in their children’s virtual lives. Here are five tips to help parents keep their kids safe online.
1. Create a Plan
The first thing any parent needs to do is sit down with kids and explain at an age-appropriate level why a child needs to be smart and cautious when using the Internet. It’s important to stress to kids that while social media networks can be fun, whatever they post lives digitally forever. Kids aren’t thinking that a photo of them partying could ruin their chances of getting a job years later; it’s your job to impress that it could. Kids also need to understand to be leery of people they meet online because virtually people can pretend to be anyone. As a family create a list of rules for smart Internet usage. By involving children in the rule-making process, you’ll get better buy-in and compliance.
2. Privacy Matters
Part of being cautious and leery online means protecting your privacy. For kids the temptation to post pictures and intimate details of their lives is high. They don’t foresee unintended consequences of sharing a picture of the family on vacation, alerting nefarious individuals that the family home is empty or that giving an address, email or phone number to someone you don’t know online isn’t smart.
If you allow your children to use social media, it’s important that you review the privacy settings for each account to ensure they are the highest possible.
Bullying was hard enough to deal with in person, but cyberbullying might be even worse. Kids can say and do some pretty mean things and now they have the tools at their fingertips to broadcast their nastiness to the world. Cyberbullies use the Internet and social media to embarrass, humiliate and terrorize their victims. In a recent study comparing cyberbullying to verbal bullying, adolescents who reported cyberbullying were 11.5 times more likely to have suicidal ideas, while those who reported verbal bullying were only 8.4 times more Iikely to have suicidal tendencies. Like traditional bullying, kids often don’t tell anyone because they are embarrassed. Having a conversation about cyberbullying when you set your family Internet rules can make it easier for your kids to come to you if they ever find themselves the target of a cyberbully.
4. Search Safe
Internet searches are the backbone of our digital world, but did you know what search engine you use matters in terms of protecting your privacy and security? Instead of having kids use Safari or Chrome, choose a search engine that prioritizes user safety like GOFBA, which is both a secure search engine and communication platform that’s a great option for families. GOFBA features chat, email, file transfer and storage features. It also helps eliminate inappropriate sites and content from search results and constantly filters out fraudulent or malicious sites that could put your kids at danger.
5. Parental Police
Last but not least parents can consider using online monitoring tools to keep abreast of their kid’s online activities. One of the best tools available is Qustodio. It’s a free version allows parents to set rules and time schedules, block pornography and other unsuitable content. The paid-for version, adds SMS monitoring, social media features and per-app controls. Pair this with KidLogger which tracks what your kids type and what websites they visit. It also keeps a record of what programs kids access and any screenshots they take.
Today parents have to protect their children both in the physical and virtual world. By anticipating problems before they happen, parents can mitigate the dangers of the Internet and be ready to act quickly if something does happen.