Anyone with a child know how much kids spend online these days. From a young age, your child will be accessing the internet.
The internet can offer many positive things for children from educational opportunities to ways to communicate with family and friends who are far away. At the same time, the online world represents many risks and dangers to children. Any parent wants to keep their child safe, and here’s how to do that as they use the internet.
What are the major online risks for children?
Unfortunately, as the online world has developed and grown, so have the number of risks that are to be found there. There is an incredible range of unsafe material that your child may come across if their online activity is not supervised, from pornography to bomb sites.
Cyber-bullying is a major problem associated with children’s online activity, with the CDC estimating that around 15% of US high school students are affected by cyber-bullying. Bullying has long been a destructive problem, and online methods of communication offer bullies new ways of tormenting their victims, and makes it harder for parents and educators to see what is happening, sometimes until it is too late.
Another terrifying risk that exists in the modern online world are the cyber-molesters that operate in this space. Paedophiles lurk in chat rooms and other online spaces, seeking to make connections with unsuspecting youngsters.
Tips for Keeping your Child Safe Online
Keep Your Child’s Devices Secure
One of the best ways to keep your child safe online is to follow the basic rules of computer security that apply to everyone. Make sure that the device they are using, whether it is your computer or their own tablet or smart phones, is fully up to date with under-virus and malware software. Other important online security measures are having strong passwords and being careful to only download programs and files from trusted sources. Finally, it is important that you and your children do not connect to public WiFi networks such as cafes, as you cannot guarantee your safety and privacy over such networks.
Although it is important to take these measures to protect your children, it is equally important that you educate them on computer security themselves. It is imperative that your kids understand the importance of cyber security and how to best protect their safety online. This means they will be able to avoid downloading materials unwisely, and spot online scams and email phishing.
Teach Your Children to Keep their Location Private
As part of educating your kids about essential security hygiene, be sure to teach them to keep their location private. More and more apps and programs these days automatically make the user’s location public. This means that virtually anyone can see where you are, or in this case, where your child is located.
It is critical that theses geo-tagging features are turned off for your child’s safety. This includes images, because digital photos can contain metadata that shows information on when and where the photo was taken. Because this needs to be done regularly and with just about every app, photo, and other materials, it is best to teach your child how to do this so that they make sure their location is consistently hidden.
Set up Parental Controls
Another effective way to protect your children online, particularly for younger children, is through parental blocks. You can install programs which will stop your child from accidently (or deliberately) accessing illicit content. If you don’t want to be subject to the same restrictions as your child, you can use a separate browser or device that doesn’t have the parental blocks.
Openly Communicate with Your Kids
As touched on above, it is important to educate your children about internet safety. Sure, you could set up controls on their devices, and establish rules governing their internet usage. However, a much more effective approach is to talk to your children openly about the risks online and how and why to avoid them.
Sit down with your kids and have an open discussion. Make sure to regularly talk to them about their online usage, so you can pick up on any worrying red flags. Keep in the loop with what they are doing and seeing online, and who they are talking too, to make sure this doesn’t include any strangers who may pose a threat to your child. Furthermore, be sure that this is a two-way conversation: young people are very tech savvy, and they might be able to teach you something too!
For very young children who are not yet able to understand these complex issues, it is better to start them on simple devices that are designed specifically for their age groups, and move them onto other online devices when they are old enough to manage the security issues.