The Internet is here to stay, and year by year, kids access it earlier and earlier. While it is true that the Internet is filled with various educational prospects and it offers your children fun and entertainment, it is also true that it is also full of online dangers and you need to ensure your kids are safe online.
We, as parents, try to do everything in our power to make sure our kids are safe and healthy, from teaching them how to carefully cross the road, keeping an eye on their friendship group, to even making sure they have dressed appropriately before they leave the house. Just how many times did you yell after them to add another layer or at least to put on a hat and gloves? But are you doing everything in your power to protect them from online dangers? It is time to start introducing cyber safety to your and your children’s lives. This is where you can get started:
1. Be open
It all starts with you. You need to be able to talk openly with your children about their online activity, what websites they are browsing or what kind of videos they are watching to ensure they are staying safe. Your responsibility is to ensure your children know the proper online behavior and dangers that await them. This will help them protect themselves even when you are not there, but it will also ensure they know they can come to you when they don’t feel safe online or need help.
As soon as your kids start accessing the Internet, it is time to talk to them about their activity and make sure this continues as they grow older. Try to include them in decisions and ask for their input, but don’t be afraid to put your foot down if you don’t think they are being safe.
2. Keep the devices in the common area
Making sure your children stay safe online is easier when you can see what they are doing and which sites they are browsing. You can be more lenient with older children as they can recognize suspicious sites more easily, but younger kids still don’t possess this knowledge. Keep all the devices in the common area and clarify that no tablets, laptops or gaming is allowed in the bedrooms. Smart move would also limit their and yours Internet usage and introduce technological detox time for the whole family.
You need to be aware that you won’t always be able to monitor their internet usage, which is why your priority needs to be creating open lines of communication about internet use from an early age.
3. Expand Stranger-Danger concept
You have already explained to your children that not all strangers are friends, and they need to be aware of the dangers they might bring. But have you explained to them this also applies on the Internet? With this age of social media, it can be difficult for children to differentiate who their real friends are and who might be a fraudster or even a predator. Explain to them that online they can’t know that the person they are speaking with is who they say they are and that they should always keep their private details private.
4. Watch for any changes in their behavior
If you notice any changes in their behavior, such as being secretive or withdrawing from the family, you should consider that as a red flag. It might mean that they are just going through their angsty teenage phase, but it could be something more serious such as them doing something they should or even becoming a victim of a predator. Keep an eye on any changes, and react immediately.
5. Be an example
It would be hard for your children to listen to your advice if you are not following it. You need to set an example with the type of online behavior you want them to be, as that is the best way you can encourage your children to follow in your footsteps. If they see you being respectable and safe online, they would be more likely to do the same. The Internet is constantly evolving, so make sure you stay updated with the newest trends and keep an open dialogue with your children as there is a big chance they will be aware of them long before you.
Ultimately, you need to find a balance between your children enjoying the benefits the Internet brings and remaining safe online while doing it. You don’t want them to be too afraid to use the Internet or stop them from enjoying those benefits such as educational, entertainment, and social aspects of it. Instead, provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe online and keep reassuring them that they can always turn to you if they need help.