Summer break is rapidly approaching and children will have all the time in the world to spend with their best friend: Technology. Keeping them safe online is an integral role of a parent or caregiver.
Technology is an undeniable part of our lives and the lives of our children. Kids of all ages use technology to go about their day be it a cellphone for texting or to Facetime friends, or to play games like Minecraft, or to watch videos on Youtube. Young children and teenagers alike are raised with nearly unlimited access to devices and Internet. With this constant access it is hard to watch and monitor who and what our kids are interacting with. Having these devices and access to information and Internet is such a great thing for kids of this generation if used correctly and being able to monitor those interactions is necessary. All we know is that they are going to be using their devices and we will not be able to monitor them every second of the day. Plus of course, no matter how many cyber-safety talks they have had, how many times they can parrot the rules back, they are children and they don’t always stop to think.
We do not want to live in a state of constant fear, but rather be vigilant and aware. Kids do not often realize that certain search terms might not be a great idea, or they trust that they are messaging other children inside of games, and they would really rather not limit themselves to two hours per day.
With all of this in mind, here are a few ways to make sure that your children can enjoy the wonderful world of technology while still being safe.
- Keep an eye on them while they are online.
-I know this sounds like a daunting task, but it is key to being aware of what is happening. It is always a good idea to keep the computer in a central location so it is easier to monitor. Location is key to being able to monitor usage.
- Teach them to keep private information private.
-Personal information is just that, personal. Teaching kids not to share information such as their real names, where they live, where they go to school, or hang out is of utmost importance. This should be a rule that kids can recite in their sleep. This tip can also include teaching your kids not to click on emails from people they don’t know, not to respond to hurtful or disturbing messages, and not to get together with anyone they “meet” online.
- Set parental controls.
-Your Internet service provider (ISP) has free parental controls that can limit children’s access to websites and communication features by age, content categories, time and other choices. If your ISP lacks that capability, you still have some safe-surfing options in your browser. This won’t give you the comprehensive results that an ISP would give, but can be good enough until you are able to get something a little more concrete.
- Report suspicious activity.
-Let your Internet service provider or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (1-800-843-5678) know immediately if something happens online. It is also important to teach your children to come to you right away if they experience anything that is off.
- Embrace the online world.
-The Internet is a wonderful tool and we have at our fingertips the opportunity to explore and learn and connect. Guide your child to safe places on the Internet and allow them to discover new worlds!