The Internet can provide a wonderful experience for children. It allows them to communicate with friends, teachers and play interactive games from the safety of their home.
However, without appropriate risk management, your children could be subjected to inappropriate comments, illegal activity, and identity theft, or possibly become victims of a crime.
Speak to Your Child About Their Online Activity
A parent-child relationship that allows for open communication without the possibility of shaming is great for many reasons. For one, they are more likely to speak about uncomfortable topics, like safe sex, alcohol or drug use, and politics in a secure environment.
Secondly, they’ll disclose their Internet activity when you ask and are less likely to lie to avoid consequences.
Explain to your child you’re not looking to take their Internet privileges away. Instead, you just want to see if those websites are safe.
If you discuss with your child why you’re taking this precaution, they’re more likely to avoid unsafe websites or disclose personal info on safe sites.
Activate Parental Controls and Watch Their Online Activity
Very young children are more likely to stumble upon a website that’s unsafe rather than do so maliciously. Even when they are purposely visiting these sites, it’s typically for curiosity’s sake.
After all, nothing is more tempting than something you can’t have! Many internet providers, like the ones found on the Australian iSelect Internet comparison page, offer easy-to-use parental controls.
When setting up parental controls, you can ban specific websites, types of websites, or websites that use certain keywords.
You can also prevent your child from deleting cookies or browser history, which allows you to watch their online activity in case a website slips through the cracks.
Keep Track of Total Online Time/Social Media Usage
When considering how long your children should spend online, consult the Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. For children aged 5-17, it’s recommended that they have no more than 2 total hours of sedentary recreational screen time per day.
This doesn’t include screen time for schoolwork, although it might depend on their homework load.
Get your children to agree on a period of time, like 30 minutes per session, where they can use the television or Internet. Make sure they’re getting enough exercise to compensate for sitting.
Know Who Your Child’s Online Friend’s Are
Adults know that anyone can be anyone on the Internet, but your children are more likely to be naive of that fact. If your children are also on social media, predators or other criminals could use readily available information to trick them into revealing other personal info.
Online safety is done both on and off the computer, so you need to first know who belongs to their social circle.
While your children may feel this is a breach of their privacy, you need to make sure that the people who are speaking to your children are physically present in their lives.
Always ask who a person is, if you can meet them, or if you can speak to them yourself if you’re concerned.
Teach Your Children to Keep Certain Information Private
Being anonymous has its perks for children, as malicious people won’t be able to locate your child without information like their full name, where they go to school, or home address.
The best way to differentiate between information that can be public and what can’t is by asking them if they’d give that information to a stranger. If the answer is no, they shouldn’t post it.
This goes for sharing photos that may give others information on their neighborhood or school location.
Parents can change their child’s social media settings to ensure they’re not tagged in photos or posts. You can also turn off geotagging features that may show your address.
Discuss Aspects of Negative Social Media Usage
Besides telling your children to keep specific information private, they also need to know what to do when they’re being harassed by someone online. They should know how to tell the difference between teasing, cyberbullying, and criminal activity.
Explain to your children that if they are experiencing harassment that’s affecting their enjoyment of the Internet, they need to tell you.
However, most of the mean people they’ll interact with are just bored and looking for a reaction, so discuss how your children can block or report them. Ignoring them is another suitable option.
A professional writer with over a decade of incessant writing skills. Her topics of interest and expertise range from health, nutrition and psychology.