Children today grow up using the internet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need parental guidance. These helpful hints will help you keep your kids safe online.
Kids Online – Getting Started
With the widespread use of smartphones and tablets, chances are, even your baby may have used the internet in some capacity.
If you’re looking for a rousing debate on screen time and children- this isn’t the article for you. We assume your child has already taken their first steps into the internet, even if it’s something as simple as watching a funny YouTube video of a cat slipping on a banana peel or a dancing baby.
Instead, this article will give you helpful tips to help your child safely and (somewhat) independently use the internet.
Step One: Pick a Home Base for Devices
We get it- most of us the devices we use to go online aren’t a desktop computer that stays put. That said, you should think of a good location for devices so you can keep an eye on the kids and their online activity.
You don’t have to go into full-on helicopter parent mode while your kids are online, but make sure you hold them accountable for internet use. Ideally, each family member should have their own user accounts. Then everyone can only access certain items. Only parents should have administrator rights.
Step Two: Set the Ground Rules
There are many, many things on the internet that aren’t appropriate for anyone, let alone children. So you need to set expectations of internet use and safety. Do this process together with your children, so they can understand your reasoning for certain rules. You may want to set up home pages, favorites and bookmarks suitable for children or create an e-mail address for them.
Step Three: Establish Social Media Expectations
Your preteen may beg for a social media profile on Facebook or Snapchat, but before you set them up, keep in mind that most social networks legally have a minimum age of 13. Half of 11 and 12-year-olds in the US might have social profiles, but if you’re not comfortable with this and don’t want to be the bad guy, blame the law. Even if you have teenagers, the proliferation of cyberbullying, sexting, or just time management issues are other things to consider with your child on social media.
Downloading safe, family-friendly apps, like FamilyApp, is another great way to arm your child with a safe, fun way to go online. This platform is social by nature but encourages interactions within the family, so you’re more aware of what your child is doing.
Step Four: Set Time Management Guidelines for Kids Online
Another important guideline to set is time management. It can be difficult if your child wants “just 5 more minutes to finish this level” of a favorite computer game, but if you set standards from the get-go, your life will be much easier later. Some would advise about half an hour a day for kids under seven and then increasing to about 75 minutes by the time your kids are thirteen. Recent studies by CommonSense Media indicate that kids spend much, much more time than this online. Choose what works best for your family.
Secure Internet for Kids Online
Beyond social media and time considerations, there are other factors to consider to surf safely the internet. Although software can block certain pages, it does not offer absolute protection. Explain to your child not to publish any personal data, like their name, addresses, or telephone numbers online. Your child should ask you before downloading anything since they could accidentally download a computer virus or some expensive bonus feature.
Even if you’re not watching their every move, be sure to check your credit card, or even their browsing history to make sure they haven’t done anything that violates your family’s internet guidelines. Is that a violation of trust? Perhaps- but trust has to be earned. Using the internet is a privilege, NOT a right, and your awareness of their activity can help keep your child safe. It could even save their life!
Ideally, you want to develop a relationship of trust so your child comes to you as soon as they discover something strange on the internet. Even the most conscientious child could come across a porn site while innocently researching for homework. When these things happen, you want them to come to you so you can talk about it.
Other Internet “Nevers”
Besides the above tips, there are other internet taboos.
- Never agree to personally meet anyone you meet online. If you have to, go to a busy, public place with another person.
- Don’t give out passwords or credit card information.
- Don’t provide personal details about your friends. These include posting photos of friends without their consent, and
- No cyberbullying or hate speech.
Some internet “never” could even have legal consequences, like accessing pornographic or hate group websites. If your child happens to stumble across one of these sites, be sure they’re not participating in them.
Safe Surfing for Kids Online
While there’s a lot of crazy stuff online, here are a few resources for safe internet use.
- The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has more guidelines for making the internet safer for your child.
- This study from the American Psychological Association found that home internet use actually had positive effects on academic outcomes.
- Child-friendly search engines such as kidsites.com or IXL.com offer a secure starting point and only refer to other child-friendly pages.
Parents- It’s Your Responsibility
The internet offers children endless possibilities, and also countless dangers. Children must first learn how to use the internet properly, and this education does not begin at school. Parents have a responsibility to teach their children in appropriate ways to go online. They need to know about healthy social media use, time use, and accessing good websites. A safe family app is a good way to start learning that.
Yes, parents, you need to start by setting these examples yourself. How can you talk with your child about spending too much time online when you have your smartphone with you at all times?
Are there a lot of horrible things online? Of course! But equipping your child with responsible web surfing techniques sets them up for success.