Keeping your children safe online can feel like a daunting task. Children are vulnerable - and technology has made access to them much easier. And the constant changes in technology make it difficult for even the most tech-savvy of parents to keep up.
Here are some tips to help keep your kids safe online:
- Begin conversations early about internet safety. Explain to children that they should treat anyone who contacts them on the internet whom they don't know the same way they would strangers in real life - with caution. Explain that they should not "friend" or connect with anyone they do not already know. Encourage open discussions about anything they find unusual or confusing.
- Remind them that nothing on the internet is private and that once they post something, it remains on the internet forever.
- Keep your connected devices in a centralized spot in your home. If you have a desktop computer, hook it up in a room where the screen is visible. If your children are using tablets, laptops, or handheld devices to connect to the internet, establish age-appropriate rules around where the device can be used and monitored by an adult. Learn how to use parental-controls to filter content.
- Create rules and expectations in your home around internet usage. Discuss what kind of websites are appropriate and inappropriate
based on your child's age. Set time limits for screen time. Ensure that your children are aware of the expectations and consequences if they do not follow them.
- If your teen is using social media, obtain their passwords. Explain that you will be checking their posts and messages periodically in order to ensure their safety.
- If you begin to suspect issues with cyber-bullying or inappropriate relationships, re-establish boundaries and expectations in order to maintain safe usage.
For parents, it can feel impossible to balance the communication benefits of the internet against its potential to cause harm. When used safely, the internet is an extraordinary tool for communication and information access. Do not be afraid to set the boundaries necessary to keep it that way.