In the 21st century, the internet is an integral part of life, and that is true for kids as well as adults. The online world plays a huge role in lesson plans for teachers, video tutorials help kids learn and blogs and websites bring the world to your front door.
Unfortunately, the online world can also be a dark place, and as a parent, it is up to you to protect your kids from those dangers. If you want to protect your kids, you need to take a proactive approach. Here are 10 ways to keep your kids safer online.
1. Educate yourself. If your kids know more about the online world than you do, they will take advantage of that knowledge. Educate yourself about the internet and social media, including how they work and where the potential dangers are.
2. Talk to your kids. They may not realize it, but you were once as young as your kids are now. Being open and honest with your kids and keeping the lines of communication open is important – both online and off.
3. Limit the use of social media. There is a reason Facebook and other social media sites have minimum age requirements, and you should not let your kids circumvent them. Talk about the dangers of social media and prohibit the use of these sites until your kids are old enough to use them responsibly.
4. Lock up mobile devices at night. Smartphones and other mobile devices can be dangerous in young hands, so keep those devices locked up at night. Keep a close watch on your kids when they are using their devices, and do not be afraid to check their search histories and contacts.
5. Install monitoring software. Monitoring software can notify you if your kids do something inappropriate, so do not be afraid to use it. Be sure to check the software on their devices to make sure it has not been tampered with or disabled.
6. Set clear boundaries and expectations. For the kids living under your roof, use of the internet and social media is a privilege, not a right. Setting clear expectations and boundaries now can help you avoid misunderstandings and fights later.
7. Get to know the parental settings. From the router bringing Wi-Fi into your home to the browsers providing access to the internet, parental controls can keep your kids safer online. Get to know those parental controls, from how to use them to ways to enhance their security.
8. Limiting access for your kids' accounts is important, but so is protecting your own accounts. If your kids have access to your passwords, or if those passwords are easy to guess, they could be tempted to circumvent limits by signing on with your online credentials.
9. Work with the school district. Internet access for your kids is not limited to the home environment, so talk to teachers, educators and administrators about their own safety measures. Online safety is a team effort, and it is important to get everyone involved.
10. Set up separate accounts for the kids on all your devices. Instead of giving the kids their own computers and tablets, set up separate accounts on family-owned equipment. Keep these devices in a common area, and make sure you log off whenever you use them.
The internet provides a world of possibilities for kids, from access to all the libraries of the world to online lessons designed to augment their schoolwork. But if you do not take proactive measures, the internet could turn on your kids, transforming something wonderful into a source of darkness and danger. Setting limits for your kids' online activities, being educated and informed and keeping the lines of communication open can all help you reduce the danger.