As they get older, your kids are going to want to use the internet on their own. As such, you’ll no longer be able to load up appropriate videos and games on the tablet for them. And while parents always have the last say in screen time hours, the use of the internet might become a source of contention in your family over the next few years.
Because of this, you’ll want to prepare your kids early on. The internet can be a dangerous place, and even when the kids know the red flags to keep an eye out for, it’s no guarantee they won’t run into a problem. But the more you tell them about staying safe online, and the easier you make it to talk about these issues, the less you’ll have to worry. So here’s what you need to know about the best ways to keep your kids safe online.
Don’t Make Using the Internet a Secret
It’s common for kids to feel that they have to hide their online activity from their parents. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re up to no good, or that they’re talking to someone they shouldn’t. They simply might be staying up late and using it when they’re not supposed to, or they might visit sites they’re not sure you’ll approve of. They might just be talking to their friends and don’t want you to ‘hear’ them. It’s normal for a child to want to keep secrets like this.
However, the use of the internet in your house should remain open, and be a normal part of life they don’t have to lie about. Because of this, you should regularly remind them they can always talk to you about the things they do online, or anything they might accidentally come across. You’re not going to be angry, and they won’t be to blame. You’d just like to be aware of what they do.
Know Who Your Child’s Friends are
Both offline and online, you’ll want to know who your child is ‘hanging out’ with. Not only so you know where they are and that what they’re doing is safe, but so that you can ‘vet’ any new friendships they strike up. This way you know when strangers have come onto the scene; you already know the names of all the people they usually talk to or play with, and any new names can be immediately flagged. Be sure to ask questions about your child’s online friends, and if they’ve made any new ones recently. Keep the conversation neutral, just show a bit of interest, and keep your worry to yourself until you’ve checked out the person on the other end.
Use Website Blocking Controls
The internet is a much more nuanced place these days. Many tools have been created to allow parents like you more control over what your child does when online. So make good use of these controls and block off any websites you feel are unsuitable. You can even do this on their own mobile phones, if they have them. Check out this quick guide on how to block websites on iphone, so even when your child is out of the house, they won’t have much more access to anything you don’t want them to see. Be sure to talk to your child about the websites you’re blocking, and try to explain why. Kids are very curious, and if you put an obstacle in their way without letting them know, they’ll forever badger you about it!
Double Check Internet History Once in a While
You don’t have to follow up on everything your child does online – this would seem like a breach of privacy and your child probably wouldn’t find it very fair! In fact it’s been found that the more kids are checked on by their parents, the more secretive they’re likely to be. However, you do need to check the history every once in a while, maybe once a week or twice a month. This will allow you to keep a general track of what your children get up to online. You want this kind of idea much more than a detailed breakdown. If any new websites they’ve never visited before suddenly crop up, you can ask them what they do there, if anyone’s contacted them through it, and if they feel safe when using the site. Being safe online is important for both kids and adults. Start the safety habits right now.