The Internet is a fascinating place. You can find endless amounts of videos, images, quirky sites, and more. But there’s also a side to it that frightens many parents and parents-to-be. With the heightened velocity of information and interaction that’s available online, it can be hard to keep track of what your kids are doing, raising the issue of online safety for kids.
This phenomenon can change with your child’s age. For example, the Internet presence of a child four to six years old is easier to monitor than that of your average teenager. However, as children are gaining access to technology at younger ages, more and more parents are concerned about the balance between curiosity and safety. If that sounds like you, I’ve compiled some household precautions that might help ensure that your kids are safe online.
Online Safety for Kids Tips
1. Set a designated time for technology at home.
Having a set time for technology use will make it easier to monitor what your kids are doing, while giving them the space to feel independent. Time limits should range between one to three hours, which you can adjust based on their expected homework load.
One key component of this strategy is to reserve family time as technology-free zones. For example, my husband and I put away our phones at dinnertime so that the kids have our undivided attention.
I know this can be difficult for many families, especially when both parents work. However, do what you can. Your time together can also be used to talk to your children about safety online, or about anything they’ve got going on, so you can be part of their developing lives!
2. Use parental controls! That’s what they’re there for.
Parental controls tools are a beautiful online safety alternative! They are completely free and ensure that your children are browsing and searching to their hearts’ content, without any unhappy surprises.
You can limit the content that your child receives on their devices and set permission requests for unknown sites.
3. If possible, have a tech device that is shared with the family.
This isn’t for everyone, but in our house, we have one tablet that both our kids share. Our older one does homework on it and has a few games, and the younger one watches Netflix but isn’t old enough to fully use it.
Our kids share it because we want to teach them how to be responsible and considerate people who can share things of importance. Obviously, this isn’t the only way to teach them that, but it’s the way we chose.
You may also like: 4 Effective Ways to Help Your Child Develop Better Listening Skills
4. Have a specific area of the house dedicated to using tech devices.
This is a biggie. We have one space to charge everyone’s devices, which lets the kids unplug for the night. This way, they aren’t taking tablets to their rooms, playing games when they are supposed to be sleeping, or doing something they shouldn’t.
With the exception of my husband and I, who charge our phones on our nightstands for their alarms, everything else is charged in the office overnight. This is also where homework is done and backpacks are kept. It makes a community space for our children to share their stuff, and allows them to leave the Internet behind when they go to bed.
5. Have your kids’ passwords.
This one may seem intense, but it’s important for younger tech-users. Having your children’s passwords doesn’t mean you log in every day and creep on their pages. It means that there is an understanding that you are able to see what your kids are seeing and posting when you need to.
This can change with age too. Kids are getting social media accounts at younger and younger ages, so it makes more sense for a parent to have the password of a twelve-year-old versus a seventeen-year-old. This should also motivate you to build mutual trust with your kids until they understand the potential consequences of the Internet and social media.
6. Use antivirus software on your devices.
There are different antivirus out there, but use them! We use Norton Antivirus and it’s been great for us.
Software can be helpful for those with older kids, as it will provide you the monitoring you need, but may not always have time for. Look into it!
7. Talk to your kids.
Talk to your kids about online safety and why it’s important. Our older child is six, and we regularly talk to her about how to be safe online.
If you have an open conversation with your children and let them ask you questions, they will understand better why you need to check in with them.
Also, get involved with your kids’ lives. Know what they are interested in, who they befriend, and what sites they like to visit. This will give you more insight into their online interests.
Keeping kids safe online is on every parent’s mind. With the busy life of a parent, it’s hard to always manage what our children are up to. But, there are some great resources out there to help us monitor their activity and limit what they do experience online.
Every child is unique in their age and personality, and every parent is also unique in what they will allow, so to each their own. The main thing is to be part of your kids’ lives and talk to them. Helping them to understand the Internet will make it (a tad) easier, and their safety is worth the struggle. Happy parenting!