This generation is obsessed with the internet. Access to unlimited internet is a common phenomenon in all modern households. This enables children to access the internet from a young age. In fact a very young age. As parents we want our children to always be safe. This concern is true for internet usage also as we have ourselves come across content that should not be seen by any youngster.
It is amazing just how little parents are actually aware of what their children get up to on their computers. It is not that we do not care for them but because of the complexity of the ever developing internet that we tend to not keep ourselves updated. But if your child’s safety and security was at stake then would you not make the effort?
Here are 10 tips to keep your child safe on the internet:
Alternate Activity: Yes, the internet is an easy option to keep your child happy and occupied while you complete your daily chores. But this could push them to spend too much time over the internet leading to unsocial, withdrawn behaviour. Try and spend time with your child by planning alternate activities like nature hikes, museum and zoo visits, camping trips etc. This way your child will not be dependent solely on internet for entertainment.
Talk to your Child: It is very important to openly talk to your child about online safety and make them understand that they should come and talk to you about anything that they feel uncomfortable about that they have seen or encountered over the internet. Let them know that you will be checking on their online activities for their safety. It is important also to let them know that you still respect their privacy. Talk to them about online safety from an early infact as soon as they start anything that involves the internet. Very young children may still need your assistance to operate the computer. This offers you an opportunity to highlight the existence of safe and unsafe elements in the real as well as the online world and talk about the safety methods that he or she should take care about like password, protection etc.
Set Usage Time Limit: Set a usage time table for your kids depending on how much time you are comfortable with allowing your children to spend online. Very young children can be allotted limited time at the beginning to encourage them to indulge in other physical activities with their friends. Make sure that they are clear about how much time they can spend on the social networking sites, instant-message friends and play online games and when the computer becomes a no-IM zone only to be used for homework purposes.
Filter Content: Make sure you put a filter on what your child can and cannot access online and the kind of sites they can view. Explore software’s that allow you to exercise parental control over what your child does online.
Be the one to introduce internet: Make sure that as a parent you should be the one to introduce your son or daughter to the world wide web. Doing this will help you and your child agree on the important rules of usage far easier. It would also make them more open to discussing their online activities with you.
Set up the home computers in common areas: Setting up the computers with internet in the house in common areas will help you monitor your child’s internet usage and they in turn will be less likely to indulge in questionable behavior. This can also help keep your child safe from unscrupulous netizens who are likely to get him or her to do something they don’t want if they are in the confines of their bedroom or locked in a room alone.
Start to Trust Older Children: As your child grows older he or she will be curios about sex and relationships and likely to take help of the internet as a safe option to explore these topics. As long as you do not find any illegal and disturbing content, even if they may seem to be inappropriate to you, do not worry too much. Remember how curious you were at their age and what it felt like when you were their age. Putting an amount of trust on your older children about their online activities is likely to make them more open to come and discuss any problems or issues they may be facing online. Make sure to still sit them down and tell them about the very real dangers of the internet if they stray away from the mainstream sites. Don’t put too many restrictions on your older children so that they do not feel infringement of their privacy and feel comfortable to come and talk to you about anything odd that might happen to them or if they have any concerns.
Teach them to be Wary of Strangers: It is best to teach your kids to beware of strangers both in the real as well as in the virtual world. Talk to your kids and make them understand that hackers and virtual criminals are those kinds of criminals who can enter your homes and lives through the computer. Just as you teach them to not accept any gifts or packages from unknown people in the real world tell them to be wary of unsolicited email attachments and links from strangers. You need to make them understand in clear terms that they are in very real danger of falling prey to hacking and malware attacks just as much as the next person and should therefore exercise restraint, good judgement and caution while using the internet.
Apply and adopt the offline standards to your online world: Talk to your child and ask them simple questions like “Would you talk to any stranger you meet in the streets and agree to meet him / her in a secluded location?”, “Do you reveal your personal information and all deepest secrets to strangers?”, “Would you leave your house’s front door open and leave the house unguarded?”. Make sure your child is aware that people may not be what they appear to be online in real life and the 9 year old girl or boy he or she thinks they are chatting with could very well be a 60 year old man with no good intentions. Just apply standards you adopt offline to the on-line world and this will increase safety online. Be sensible and just remember that you have to be on your guard . Be careful about giving our any personal information including photos as once they are out there they could go anywhere.
Learn about what applications and sites your children are using yourself: As parents it is very important for your to educate yourself on what is trending in your child’s social circle. Being up to date about the latest apps, social networking sites, messenger applications is a good way to keep tabs on the potential trappings of these. You can check the available privacy settings and exactly how much information is made public in each of these. Be aware yourself about all devices that connect to internet before handing them over to your child.
Awareness is the first step towards safety for your children when it comes to the internet. With its lightning fast evolution and development the internet is throwing up newer possibilities for your child everyday. However, with it it is also making the threat of cyber crimes, cyber bullying, hacking etc even more of a reality. Be wary and treat your computer as yet another open window through which unwanted strangers can enter into your child’s lives any time. They may hate you for being a spy and a snoop for a while but sooner rather than later they will understand.