The advances in technology in recent years are incredibly convenient and exciting … unless you have kids. Then, suddenly, every creepy chat room or new technology-driven addiction you see feels like a direct threat to your babies.
It can get so frightening that you can be tempted to get rid of the internet all together and go back to simpler times (or “living off the grid”). But, today, nearly everything is done online. So, this isn’t really an option.
You can find internet plans that fit your family’s needs to work through the financial aspect. But how do you get past the fear of your children being online?
Check out these tips for keeping your kids safe online:
Keep an open dialogue
Yes, you can monitor your kids at an early age when they’re online (keep the computer in communal space, check their internet history, etc.), but eventually your kids will be online alone or they will find ways around your monitoring (never underestimate how smart kids are). This means talking to them at an early age about the risks, what is and isn’t appropriate online, and the safety precautions they should be taking is important.
The goal is to make your kids feel comfortable talking to you about what they do online and to caution them about the dangers without scaring them. You want them to know how to use the internet (that’s an important skill in today’s world), but you don’t want them falling into the online traps that lead to things like abduction or addiction to video games (or pornography). According to Tech Addiction, in teens, video game addiction is associated with higher probability of anxiety, depression, and lower grades.
Some remember when parental controls first became a thing, and you remember them blocking some of the educational websites … but still letting you stumble across pornography. Today, however, the controls seem to have improved. Plus, now, they not only monitor web content, but they also monitor texts, social media accounts, and a plethora of apps. The parental controls allow your children to feel trusted, but lets you know when they may be engaging in sketchy behavior (it even looks for mental health indicators so you know about self-harm and depression issues that could arise).
Teach them about privacy
You’ve all heard about someone who has had inappropriate pictures get leaked. In fact, according to Internet Safety 101, at least 1 in 4 teens have received a sexually explicit email/text, 1 in 7 are sending these “sexts,” and roughly 1 in 12 has had these types of images get shared without their permission. This is only one of the many reasons why it’s vital to teach your kids about virtual privacy. You should be teaching your kids about not sharing private information online. And, as soon as they’re allowed to have a social media profile, you should be teaching them how to block content and make their accounts private. You should also make sure they’re aware of things like virtual bullying and when information is too personal to be sharing online.
Set time limits
According to an article published last year by CBS News, the American Heart Association says that children are spending way too much time in front of screens. Children ages 8 to 18 spend more than seven hours a day looking at screens. The AHA recommends parents limit this time to two hours and only one hour for children under 5. They say too much screen time puts your children at risk for obesity and improper sleeping patterns. It’s important to be teaching your children about the importance of a balanced life. Most recommend leading by example and limiting your own screen time as well.