Do risks like cyberbullying, identity theft, stalking, and phishing scams keep you up at night feeling concerned about your child’s online safety? It’s understandable to feel this way, as 84% of parents worry about online safety issues .
Your child’s positive mental growth and overall well-being are of utmost importance. That’s why it is important to actively guide them both in the physical world and the hyper-connected virtual one.
Teaching kids to use technology in a healthy way empowers them to develop the skills and habits needed to become safe and responsible digital citizens. In this article, we’ll share methods on how to deal with tech-savvy younglings or teenagers who crave a bit of independence, to make technology work for your family.
Lead by Example
Technology can be incredibly captivating for both parents and children alike. But our little ones are observing us closely and might feel like they have to compete with our devices for our attention. Some studies show that technology can interfere with parents and interaction with their kids around three or more times a day .
Fortunately, companies like Google and Apple have recognized this concern and have taken steps to address it by incorporating features like time limits and usage statistics. These tools can be helpful, but they alone cannot solve the issue. The best way to teach children to unplug is to be a role model.
- Set boundaries for family time, mealtimes, and outings to disconnect from your devices and connect with your loved ones.
- Be mindful of when you need to be plugged in and when you can disconnect.
- You might feel like you must respond to messages or check your emails immediately, but taking a step back to prioritize quality time with your family could make all the difference.
- Use technology responsibly and follow common-sense rules like avoiding texting while driving or oversharing on social media.
- Demonstrate responsible use of technology to show your kids that digital devices have a time and place and that we should prioritize our presence in the real world.
Familiarize Yourself With Digital Spaces
To inspire your kiddo, you might want to first educate yourself about the dangers of the internet first. Stay informed about emerging online scams and threats; they’re constantly evolving. That way, you’ll identify the risks and take steps to protect your family.
There are four common scams to be aware of that specifically target children. These may be carried out through gaming forums or by sending malicious links via messages, which can lead to identity theft or infecting one’s device with malware.
The top four scams to watch out for are:
- Phishing Emails
Phishing emails are messages designed to trick people into revealing sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial information. These emails can be compelling and may appear to come from legitimate sources, such as banks or other trusted organizations.
To protect your child from phishing emails, teach them never to click links or download attachments from emails they don’t recognize. Encourage them to always double-check the sender’s email address and never provide personal information in response to an email request. Also, encourage them to come to you if they are unsure of whether the email sender is trustworthy.
Malware is malicious software designed to harm a computer or device. Cybercriminals can use malware to steal personal information, damage files, or even take control of a device.
Kids, being kids, might receive malicious messages or click links they are not supposed to, which can infect their devices with malware. Teach them only to download software and apps from trusted sources. Be sure their device has up-to-date antivirus software installed.
- Online Gaming Attacks
Online gaming attacks are a growing concern for parents. Cybercriminals can use gaming platforms to steal personal information, harass other players, or even spread malware.
__ Keep an eye on your child’s gaming activity__, especially if they are playing with other people online. Be sure they play age-appropriate games and interact with people you know and trust.
- Identity Theft
It’s a severe problem that affects people of all ages, including children. Your child’s personal information that includes sensitive data may be at risk. Cybercriminals may use this information to their benefit.
To protect your child from identity theft, teach them about online privacy and secure personal information. You might also have your own personal information on your child’s devices, therefore, your identity could also be an attractive target.
Have them understand that they should never share personal information with anyone online, especially strangers.
Consider freezing your child’s credit so that nobody can open accounts in their name without your permission.
Also, be sure that they use a VPN for their Android or Apple mobile devices. A VPN routes all internet traffic through an encrypted virtual tunnel, which masks your child’s IP address and makes their location invisible to others.
This can prevent cybercriminals or predators from tracking your child’s online activity and accessing their personal information.
Leverage Parental Controls
Parental controls are tools and software you can use to ensure your kids stay safe and make good choices when using the internet.
There are three types of rules that parents can set:
- Network-level controls: These rules are like a big safety net that covers all the devices in your home, including phones, tablets, and computers. It’s like having one rule for everything connected to your house’s internet.
- Device-level controls: You can give specific instructions for each device, such as your phone or tablet. No matter where you use these devices, the rules still apply and help keep your child safe online.
- Application controls: These are special settings for certain apps or websites, like YouTube or Google. You can customize these settings to make sure you only see appropriate content. Just remember to check and adjust these settings on every device your kids use.
How to Apply Network-level Parental Controls
The most common method of establishing parental controls on your home network is through your router’s settings. However, it can be confusing if you’re not familiar with accessing your router’s administrative console.
To begin, log in to your router as you would modify your network name and password. Then, search for the parental controls or access restrictions option. Remember that not all routers may have these features. The location of these options can differ based on the specific model you’re using. If you’re unable to locate a Main Menu option that appears to be related to parental controls, it may be present under a menu named “Tools,” “Firewall,” or “Advanced Settings.”
These steps may sound technical, because they are. If you feel like you are not able to follow the steps comfortably, make sure to seek help from professionals.
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The Best Parental Control Tools
Parental control software monitors emails, social media accounts, text messaging, and other mobile device functions. These can prove helpful when you have concerns about potentially inappropriate discussions or activities. Here’s how they work:
- Content Filtering: These tools can stop kids from going to websites or using apps that have things that are not good for them, like inappropriate content or dangerous websites. The tools have a list of categorized websites, or they can check if a website is inappropriate and block it.
- Website whitelisting and blacklisting: Let you list safe websites for your kids. This way, the kids can only go to those websites, and you know they won’t accidentally stumble upon something they shouldn’t see.
- Watching what kids do: Keep an eye on what apps or websites kids use. You can get reports or messages about which apps their kids use and how much time they spend on them. If there’s an app that you don’t want your kids to use, you can block it. Make sure you talk to your kiddo regularly about how they can stay safe and help them understand this action.
- Controlling time: Helps you limit your kids’ time on devices or certain apps. You can decide how long their kids can use their devices each day or during certain times, like homework time or bedtime.
- Checking social media: Some tools can also watch what kids do on social media. They can tell you which platforms their kids use, the messages they see, and if there’s anything that might be mean or inappropriate.
- Parents in control: You can use your devices’ tools to make changes and check reports. Get notifications if something happens that you need to know about, like if your kid tries to visit a blocked website.
- Staying safe: These tools protect your kids’ personal information and data. They use special ways to keep everything private and secure. You can also set up passwords or PINs, so only you can change the settings.
Some General Tips to Consider
You can not ensure your child’s online safety with a one-time fix—it’s an ongoing effort. Some tips you need to consider to ensure your child’s safety from online predators:
Be More Involved
Think of activities you can get involved in together. It might be researching a topic you discussed (a family vacation, board game rules, for example) or playing an online game.
This way, you’ll spend some quality time together while supervising their online activities and learning about the best online safety practices along the way. This is also a great chance to model some safe behaviors while using the internet.
Set Family Rules About Online Activities & Inform Them About The Dangers
Set boundaries about online safety in your household, and ensure these rules are well communicated. Your children should know what they can do on their devices.
Also, while setting these rules, be sure that they are reasonable for your children’s age, maturity, and knowledge.
These rules should encompass the following:
- What sites can they visit?
- How much screen time are they allowed?
- The software they are allowed to use.
- The activities they can be involved in.
Monitor Their Activities
You should always be aware of what your children are up to while using their devices. This means keeping tabs on their emails, chat rooms, discord, social media, etc. Monitor who they are talking to and consider whether you should be moderating those conversations.
Have a conversation with your kid about their activities and make sure that these steps are for their safety and health.
Place The Computer In An Open Area
Your computer should be in a high-traffic area, like the living room. That way, monitoring your children’s computer activities will become more convenient for you. That will deter your children from getting involved in activities they know they shouldn’t do.
You should always be open to communicating with your child whenever they ask you to, especially when their safety is involved. Also, your child should feel comfortable approaching you with questions or concerns about behaviors they might have experienced online.
Empower your children and teenagers to navigate the digital space with confidence and safety. Becoming aware of the security risks that online predators pose is the first step towards securing our young ones.
Prevention is key— it starts with educating ourselves about the dangers of the digital world and taking the necessary measures to protect our kids. We can make a significant difference by spreading awareness and educating children, parents, and school communities about online risks and how to avoid them. These activities will work towards a safer internet for our little ones and ensure they can fully enjoy the vast opportunities the digital world offers without fear or harm.