When it comes to keeping children safe, there’s much more to it than ensuring they’re protected physically. You may be making sure they get home from school on time and stick to their curfew on a summer evening; however, many dangers can present themselves online these days.
While the internet is filled with education, socializing, and games, it can also be a dangerous place that children need to be protected from. Whether it’s a site that isn’t suitable for a younger audience or your child is chatting to strangers online, it’s essential you monitor their screen time to keep them safe.
So, if you’re concerned your child is spending too much time on the internet and is being exposed to unsuitable sites, here are seven ways to protect your children online.
Set Screen Time Limits
Do your children hop from one screen to the other during the day? Whether it’s a phone, tablet, or laptop, many children these days have grown up with this form of technology, so naturally, they want to spend time using it.
However, it’s also vital for children to have a routine and spend time away from these devices. Limit their daily screen time, and set specific times in the day dedicated to technology. You can also enforce the types of devices they can use, alongside what games they play and what videos they can watch. This allows you to monitor their screen time and teach them the importance of real-life social interaction.
Install Parental Controls
Parental controls are a great way to stop your children from accidentally stumbling across indecent material on the internet. Depending on your internet service provider, or your web browser, you can implement parental controls and restrictions that prevent your child from unsafe sites.
For example, if your web browser is Google, you can use the free SafeSearch filters feature. This will automatically block all websites that contain explicit material. To activate this feature, head to Settings/SafeSearch filters.
For 100% accurate parental controls, there are some paid features you can invest in that will control and protect the actions of young children.
Monitor Who Your Children Speak to Online
Children can be very naive, and online predators can sometimes prey on this vulnerability. With adults knowing that sometimes people aren’t who they claim to be, this can often go over children’s heads, making them prime victims.
To prevent this from happening, you should monitor who your children speak to online. Note down the names and contacts of the people your child is communicating with and teach them to be cyber-wise from a young age. If your child is reluctant to reveal the names of their online friends, tell them that this is one of their internet access conditions.
Set Social Media Rules
Social media can be an excellent platform for socialization; however, it can also reduce the time children spend communicating in real life and expose them to cyberbullying, potentially inducing low self-esteem.
With it sometimes being beneficial, allowing them to contribute to group projects or chat with their friends on video call, spending too much time on social media can also form a negative habit.
Try setting social media rules, such as the platforms they are allowed to use and the amount of time they can spend on it. You should also encourage them to disclose how they feel before, during, and after their social media sessions, as this can help them understand if their screen time is reducing their mood.
Ensure Your Child’s Location is Set to Private
Many websites, apps, networks, and devices have features that allow you to share your location online. While this may seem like a trivial point, with many children excited to let their friends know of their whereabouts, it can also lead to unwanted people being aware of your child’s exact location.
Before allowing your child to use a device, ensure all the location services are turned off. This will automatically take care of your child’s safety and privacy.
You should also be aware that digital photos can also contain information about the date, time, and GPS coordinates. This is called metadata and can reveal locations, too. It’s relieving to know that many social media sites automatically remove or hide this data; however, not all sites do. It’s worth researching into this to ensure you can hide your location when posting pictures.
Model Positive Online Behavior to Your Children
Children learn by example, so ensuring you promote positive and safe online behavior to your child, they are more likely to follow in your footsteps. For example, if they notice your caution when surfing the internet and visiting social media sites, they will detect your vigilance and understand the importance of staying safe online.
However, if you’re someone who also spends a lot of time online and on social media, be aware that for this to work, you’ll need to reduce your screen time, too.
When being cautious online, it’s imperative to not instill a sense of fear in your child, as this could prevent them from taking part in the educational and social aspects of the internet. With this being said, just provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to know to avoid the dangers of the internet.
Have Screens and Devices Visible to You
If your child uses the family computer, ensure it is placed in a communal spot, such as the living room or dining room, where you can keep an eye on their activity. This way, if you notice anything untoward on the screen, you can actively jump in and address the situation.
If your child uses their mobile more frequently, you can set their device to regularly forget the Wi-Fi password, and you can manually change the Wi-Fi password frequently, so they need to ask you for the new one. This ensures your child can only access the internet when you know about it. Also, make compromises with your children; for example, allow them an extra hour of screen time per week if they promise to not use them in their rooms or out of your sight.
Combine Fun With Safety
When it comes to the internet, you should ensure that your child has a healthy balance of fun and awareness.
Allow your child enough time to socialize with their friends, as this increases their respect for your guidelines. But make sure they are aware of the dangers, and encourage them to come to you if they ever have a problem.
This communication ensures a safe internet experience, alongside making the most of the educational and entertainment purposes.