It’s hard to remember a time when the internet wasn’t a constant source of information, socialization, and entertainment. Unfortunately, the exciting digital world that society has grown to depend on also has a dark side that can seriously harm children. Cyberbullying, child luring, and inappropriate content are just a few of the dangers children face when they go online.
Sadly, between social media and online gaming platforms, predators have more access than ever before to unsupervised children. Similarly, children have more access than ever to inappropriate content.
Given the largely unregulated nature of the internet, what simple steps can parents take to protect their children from online dangers? It’s a challenging task that requires open communication, boundary setting, and (if right for your family) comprehensive monitoring software.
What to Discuss With Your Children
Today’s children are digital natives; they’ve grown up around technology and are entirely comfortable utilizing it. Given children’s access to technology and the frequency with which they use it, it’s crucial that parents set boundaries and openly discuss the parameters around its use. For example, children should easily know the answers to the following questions:
Am I allowed you use my tablet in private?
Which websites am I permitted to visit?
How much screen-time am I allowed each day?
Parents need to discuss these questions with children as soon as possible so that clear digital limitations and boundaries are established. It’s also critical to be aware of children’s online activity and discuss the potential dangers surrounding cyberbullying, stranger danger, and the permanency of a post.
How To Protect Your Children
A recent Oxford study found that 90 percent of parents either didn’t know what parental settings were or didn’t use them. Although a staggering statistic, browser settings only go so far to protect children from inappropriate content, as they often fail to block apps and games.
Consider the answers parents might receive from the above questions.
Am I allowed you use my tablet in private? Like many parental decisions, the answer to this one might be, “That depends.” On what? If kids are doing well in school, answering questions about friends and social events to Mom and Dad’s liking, and communicating on a level that’s appreciated, sure! If kids show maturity in other aspects of their lives, parents can offer a bit of privacy when it comes to tablet use. It would still be beneficial to check the search history, though.
Which websites am I permitted to visit? Whether this is a list of pre-approved sites, or ones that kids are willing to show Mom or Dad at any moment that it’s requested, the decision is solely on parents’ shoulders. Maybe it’s easier to list a few types of websites that are not permitted, then clearly stating consequences for kids who visit these, or similar, sites.
How much screen-time am I allowed each day? Another tough question which differs from family to family. Some families are perfectly happy to eliminate screen regulations completely, while others prefer a measured approach. These guidelines are just as unique as each family, so parents should consider what works best for their situation.
There’s no denying that the internet can be a complicated place filled with good, bad, and downright ugly content. However, it’s unrealistic to completely prohibit internet use, which means parents need to diligently monitor children’s online activity. Fortunately, with open communication and unique limitations, the internet can be a safe, exciting world for children to explore.
Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at www.kalimuir.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.