Internet safety is a very serious issue that each and every parent must think about. It’s important for kids to know how to protect themselves online so that they don’t become a victim of a horrible act.
Even the most proactive parents (and those who have incredible internet filtering software) have stories of horror when it comes to child predators and bullies. We’re not trying to keep you awake at night but we do want you to know what your kids are doing online and how you can help them stay safe.
At any rate, it’s all part of a “Kid’s Safety on the Internet Week” (which is apparently a thing). While these posts are well-meaning, they usually lack the kind of detail that you want in order to protect your children safely.
Well, I wish to counter with my own post: Tips for Protecting Your Child Online by keeping them safe from strangers and teaching good internet practices at their age-appropriate level.
Finding the right balance between freedom and restriction is always a difficult task; however, keeping children safe and secure in the world of strangers is often a challenge. The fact that your child can be easily approached and harassed by people he/she doesn’t know makes you want to lock them up, but when they do grow up and explore the outside world, they must learn how to deal with real-life situations.
The internet has made our lives much easier. We can communicate with people on the other side of the globe in seconds, whereas this was primarily done by postal mail or fax until a decade ago. But along with all the positive aspects of using the internet, parents face a new challenge: how to protect your children from strangers online? Use these effective tips to keep your children safe on the net!
How to protect my child from strangers online?
If you’ve ever worried about your child talking to strangers or cyberbullying on social media, here are some steps you can take to help keep your family safe.
- Create a family agreement about technology use.
- Have conversations with your child about how to stay safe online and how to protect their personal information.
- Keep the computer in a central location in the house, where it’s easy to supervise and monitor.
- Don’t allow your child to use chat rooms or instant messaging unless you know all of their online friends.
- Be aware of content that is available online, including harmful language and sexual material, and discuss with your children how they should handle it if they come across something upsetting.
- Be wary of unsolicited emails and attachments.
- Explain to your children that some people are not who they say they are online. Tell them never to give out personal information, such as school name or address, without parental permission.
- Agree on the social media sites that are OK for your child to use.
- Set age limits for online activities.
- Know the sites your child visits.
- Use privacy settings.
- Tell your child not to “friend” people they don’t know in person.
- If someone asks personal questions, tell your child not to answer them.
- Learn how to block and report people online.
- Teach your child not share pictures online.
- As your child grows, they continue to need guidance and supervision.
- Make sure you know your child’s password to all their devices
- Use parental controls on the device your child uses.
- Follow online safety rules with your child.
- Talk with your children about appropriate behavior online.
- Monitor their online activity and always know who they are talking to.
- Check their social media and text messages regularly.
It’s no surprise that the Internet is a big part of our children’s lives. Kids spend at least seven hours each day using their smartphones, laptops and tablets and are becoming increasingly active on social networks.
The problem with this is that the Internet has its downsides. Children are vulnerable to cyberbullying, online predators, identity theft and exposure to inappropriate content.
But there are things parents can do to protect their children online. Here are 15 things you can do to protect your kids from strangers online in detail:
1. Have ‘The Talk’
The first step to keeping your child safe online is to have an open discussion about what your child does online. This will help you identify any potential problems and it will also let them know you are interested in their online activities and that you care about their safety.
You don’t need to have a deep discussion about every topic that could arise online, but having regular conversations about how your child is interacting with others online will give you an insight into how their cyber world is shaping up. This will also help them feel comfortable talking to you about issues that might arise.
2. Know the apps
Take the time to read up on the apps that your children use, including any new ones they may be using; this way you can understand how they work, what they do and if there are any cyber safety issues associated with them. It’s important to emphasise that just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe.
3. Talk to your kids about bullying
Bullying isn’t just a problem at school anymore; now it can follow children home as well. There are many ways bullies can harass others online, from creating fake profiles or tweeting embarrassing photos or videos to spreading rumours via email or text message. Make sure your children know they can come to you if they are ever bullied or harassed online and that neither of you will overreact if it happens. It is also important to let them know that they must tell you immediately if they are being bullied.
Teach your kids not to bully, including not to post hurtful comments or images of other people online, or forward mean messages that they have received from someone else.
Tell your kids that if they see anything inappropriate, upsetting or unsafe online they can come straight to you for help.
4. Be an active parent
There’s no better way to keep your child safe online than to be involved in their digital life. These days, this should really start when they are young. If they are using a device with an internet connection, even if it’s just a simple tablet or smartphone, you should set boundaries and rules right from the start.
Be an active participant in your child’s online life – get involved with their interests, such as by following them on Instagram or liking their Facebook posts.
5. Set limits
While it’s important to monitor what your child is viewing and interacting with on the internet, you should also set some time limits around when they can use the internet and how long for. This can help them develop balance between screen time and real-world activities.
Set limits on screen time, such as no screens 30 minutes before bedtime and no screens during meals.
6. Set up parental controls
The good news is that most internet enabled devices come with parental controls. They allow you to block inappropriate content and limit the amount of time your child spends online. When setting these up, make sure you have a clear list of which sites are forbidden.
7. Know your child’s online habits
Get to know what websites your child is visiting, who they are talking with and what they are doing. Be interested in their online activities and talk to them about their cyber life – what they enjoy, what worries them and why.
8. Keep an eye on their activity at all times
If you are concerned about the sites your child may be visiting or who they may be chatting with, use software that allows you to monitor your child’s online activity at all times.
9. Ensure they only friend people they know in real life
It’s important that your child knows not to accept friend requests from people they don’t know in real life. If they do receive a request like this, encourage them to ‘unfriend’ the person and then block them.
10. Teach your child not to share personal information online
Your child needs to understand that information like their full name, address, phone number and school should never be shared online, even with friends or family members. Similarly, personal photos (including selfies) shouldn’t be posted either, as there is no way of knowing where these images will end up once shared online.
11. Be respectful to other’s
Teach your children about appropriate online behaviour, including online etiquette and the importance of being respectful of others when communicating through social media and other channels.
12. Don’t share any personal information
Teach them not to share personal information like their address or phone number on social networking sites, chat rooms or in instant messages unless they are 100 per cent sure who they are sharing it with.
13. Be a good role model
Make sure you practise what you preach! Set a good example when it comes to online behaviour by acting responsibly on social media and follow the same privacy guidelines you would expect your children to follow.
14. Think before you post or share anything
You can never be sure where your personal information will end up, even if you think it’s being shared with just one person or a closed group of friends. Make sure your children think before they share anything online that could make them vulnerable to cyberbullying, grooming or identity theft. They should also only send images they would be happy for anyone to see.
15. Start early
Most children start using technology at a young age. For this reason, it is important to start teaching your children about online safety from an early age. Start with the basics — such as not giving personal information to strangers and not opening emails or attachments from people they don’t know.
Kids are naturally curious, and they’re constantly seeking new ways to express themselves. On the internet, they can do that in ways they couldn’t before with old-fashioned play. However, this can come with risks—your child might make connections with strangers or consider things that would be dangerous both on- and off-line—and so you need to guide them correctly. There’s no limit to what your child can accomplish online.
The internet is a wonderful, empowering place. It gives us all the ability to connect with one another in ways that we never could before—but it’s also riddled with dangers waiting for children. Keep the lines of communication open between you and your child, and take an active role in protecting them when they’re online. It may feel tempting to relax and let your child fend for themselves on the internet, but this will likely have serious consequences.
This is a question that worries many parents, and with good cause. But it is not an issue to take lightly. It’s vitally important to educate kids about online safety and the first step comes from the oldest communication medium of them all: family time.
Good, old-fashioned communication between parents and their children is vital in keeping kids safe online and making sure they understand just how dangerous the internet can be if they don’t adopt basic safe surfing practices.
It’s also important to make sure you’ve looked over your home network, setting up any necessary firewalls on your router, while ensuring that your Wi-Fi is password protected so strangers can’t just drive by and find it.
Ultimately, educating your child is an ongoing process, and you should be constantly teaching them new things. The world is a big place, and there’s always something to learn. Online safety and privacy should be just another area that you can teach your kids about—and in order to do that, you’ll need to educate yourself as well.
Please learn all you can about your computer and Internet connection. The more knowledge you have about computers and the Internet, the better equipped you will be to help your children stay safe online.
In the end, it all comes down to a matter of balancing risks. No one wants to keep their children from experiencing new things, and no one wants their children to suffer at the hands of some pedophile either. The best way to approach this problem is by keeping your kids educated about the dangers that exist out there, and educating them about how to be safe online.
Keep the lines of communication open with your kids, so that they can talk to you about any problems or concerns they might have.
Ultimately, it’s up to you as a parent to teach your children how to protect themselves online. Talk to them about what they’re doing online and how they can stay safe while they’re there. Many parents worry about constantly spying on their children, but the best approach is often the least invasive—educating your kids so that they know how not to be vulnerable.
Hopefully, you’re now equipped with some very useful tips for how to keep your kids safe online. If you do take any precautions, however, always ensure that your child understands why you’ve done so! After all, the key here is just to reassure kids that there are precautions in place and that their parents love and care about them enough to not want them to run the risk of being hurt. There’s nothing wrong with keeping kids safe online – the alternative is much worse.