It can be challenging for parents to monitor their kids online without coming across as spy-like or overly protective. Even keeping track of how much time they spend online may seem intrusive.
The Pew Research Center conducted a survey pre-pandemic. It found that screen time is a definite concern for 71 percent of parents with children aged 11 or younger. The report was published in July 2020, with 80 percent of parents indicating tablet use among their children. Sixty-three percent of parents said their children use smartphones.
Of course, COVID-19 threw a wrench into the works with virtual schooling. This type of setup sometimes goes well, sometimes not. Either way, it highlights the need for parents to protect their kids in cyberspace.
We advise parents to find a middle ground that includes more independence for kids as they get older. Fortunately, there are plenty of good ways to allow your kids to stay connected and socialize. This guide serves as a blueprint to promote safe, meaningful online experiences for children.
The online world can be scary, especially for parents whose children are learning and making mistakes. However, it’s good to recognize the benefits of going digital. In the end, your kids should be able to use cyberspace to their advantage. They can maintain relations with loved ones, learn new things, and access information. First, safety tips!
It’s easier to address issues before they become actual problems. Here are the top things you can do to be proactive:
Prevention is the key to safety, but approach parental controls such as website blocking with a grain of salt. They become less effective as children grow older and are easy for kids to hack. Parental controls aren’t a substitute for meaningful conversations. The ultimate path should be for older kids to self-regulate their Internet use without parental controls.
Kids thrive when they have structure. To that end, many families draw up media agreements that require buy-in on both sides. Be patient if your children have gone a long time without rules. They may need some time to adjust to new expectations. Issues to think about include:
If you haven’t already, talk with your kids about trolling, online bullying, and sexting (when they get older). Hold conversations on these topics every once in a while. News articles or personal experiences are great jumping-off points. They should spark honest discussion compared with heavy-duty family meetings.
Of course, rules are different from household to household, but these are some things to keep in mind. Stand by the rules you set so that your kids take you seriously.
Children are growing up with social media and smart devices at their fingertips. They immerse themselves in various screens, including TVs, smartphones, tablets, laptops, game consoles, Kindles, and LeapPads. It can be hard to control your child’s smart device exposure, but it’s never too early to educate them on safety. Tips include these:
Suspicious-looking emails are sent out every day. Fortunately, email providers such as Gmail do a pretty good job filtering these into the spam folder. Still, awareness goes a long way. Tell your children about these things.
Staying involved means different things, depending on your child’s age and needs. It’s a good idea for parents of younger children to use the Internet with them, keep a close eye on the sites they like to visit, and monitor the apps they use on the phone. This way, you can point out certain concerns as they arise.
Involvement doesn’t necessarily take the form of installing tracking software or parental controls. In fact, older children may feel like their privacy is being violated. They’ll search for ways around your restrictions. Maintaining open lines of communication is the way to go.
Kids’ online access and experiences should differ depending on their ages. For example, children younger than 10 need relatively close supervision while they are online. Most don’t have the judgment yet to use social media wisely. If your children flock to the newest sensation, check it out. It may be easier (and wiser) to open a shared account rather than flat-out prohibiting access. That’s a recipe for children to go behind your back.
Gradually increase permissions as children get older. Encourage open communication to make the teen years a lot easier.
Don’t let your children see you on sites you wouldn’t want them to be on. Children often look at their parents and make judgments on what’s acceptable and what’s not. So, disconnect by example. Spend time outdoors. Read, cook, and play. If you maintain examples of being disconnected, your teen will learn from you and follow suit. In short, make good online choices. If you wouldn’t like to see your child do it, then don’t do it yourself.
In a day and age where individuals are so immersed in their electronics, it’s extremely important to encourage quality family time without electronic devices and technology. Bond with one another, perhaps through a fun board game, pool night, or hearty family dinner.
We understand there can never be too many resources for safety! Below are some websites that encourage cyber safety for people of all ages.
This resource from Consumernotice.org discusses cyberbullying, harassment, sexting, and other online safety issues. It also dives into parental tracking, open communication, and responsible device use.
No worries if you’re behind the TikTok curve. Catch up with this guide from Common Sense Media. Learn about duets, challenges, parental controls, and much more.
Common Sense Media offers a lot more than an ultimate TikTok guide. Hover over “Parents Need to Know” to get the scoop on Zoom, Minecraft, Fortnite, Snapchat, YouTube, and even parental controls. Read up on other topics such as screen time and privacy and online safety. Sort the information by age range.
The FBI has resources on protecting your kids, Internet safety, common scams and crimes, and sex offender registry websites. Each tab is worth checking out.
Read blog posts on topics such as connected devices, phone number exposure, and Wi-Fi best practices.
Technology is an integral part of our world. If used appropriately, electronic devices can have great benefits. For example, students can efficiently conduct research and write papers, peers can communicate with one another, adults can meet their significant other, and so much more.
However, research has shown that face-to-face interaction between kids and parents, teachers, and friends are essential in fostering healthy relationships and development. The Internet can be a potent tool, but it’s important not to lose sight of personal relationships.
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