Let’s face it. The expansive world of resources that the Internet has provided to us has sadly also brought with it real security concerns, not just for us as adults, but for our children who have never even known a world without such technologies.
Encouraging children’s development is important to anyone who has kids in their lives, but as a parent, guardian, or caregiver, it is especially important that we never lose sight of the measures we need to take to best protect our children as they learn interactively in a digital world. No matter what your age, nothing is fool-proof, but there are solid steps and precautions you can make as an adult to help your child’s online activities be as safe and secure as possible.
Let’s explore some of these recommendations:
1. Talk about avoiding cybercrime.
While it’s not the intention to scare anyone, kids need to be made aware that it’s important to be cautious. It’s also important that they know they can talk to you when an online mistake is made, like falling for a scamware alert and downloading something dangerous to the computer. Many kids are savvy enough to realize when they’ve downloaded a virus, but few are comfortable admitting their mistake to their parents.
2. Set guidelines.
If possible, keep the computer in a common area of the house, and also monitor your child’s activity on mobile devices or digital toys. Set reasonable time limits on usage, and also encourage other hands-on forms of play. Use monitoring and filtering software as necessary.
3. Actually step into their cyberworld.
Just as you know about playground stories and school day details, you need to become a part of your kids’ digital lives. Playing copilot to your child is the best way to ensure he or she has a safe, smooth ride. And your guidance will rub off; soon your safe habits will become second nature to your child’s online behavior.
4. Teach them to protect their privacy
While they may not fully understand the consequences of revealing personal information online, you should still make sure your children know:
-Never to give their name, phone number, e-mail address, password, postal address, school, or picture without your permission
-Not to open e-mail from people they don’t know
-Not to get together with anyone they “meet” online
5. Conduct online audits.
Know the websites your children regularly visit, and follow up on that. Be aware of the protection features these websites offer, as well as that of the software your children use. All major Internet service providers (ISPs) provide tools to help you manage younger children’s online experiences, and many also have other security features. Just keep in mind – your home isn’t the only place your children can be online.
6. Listen, listen, listen.
Kids will invariably say what’s on their mind, sometimes by accident. If they are discussing something with siblings or with you, which is random, unusual, or inappropriate, it may indicate they’re getting information they are struggling to understand, and the Internet could be the culprit. Open your ears and you may pick up on something you missed in your most recent online audit.
7. Explain implications.
Help your children to understand why you care, and why you’re a regular part of their digital experience. Explain to them the public nature of the Internet, and of course its benefits and risks. Make sure they realize that any digital information they share (pictures, videos, etc.) can be easily copied and pasted elsewhere, and nearly impossible to take back.
In summary, open, honest communication, and some monitoring and guidelines can in fact make a real difference in your child’s digital world safety. We have to be realistic of the scams, invasions, and threats out there, and so do our children. If they understand these concerns from a young age, they’ll be better equipped to fully appreciate the many wonderful opportunities the Internet can provide to them, and less likely to be taken advantage of or harmed by the darker side of the digital era.