From humble begins, twenty or so years ago, the internet has taken over just about every aspect of our lives. It has made life easier, in many respects, but as with all great leaps forward there are a few pitfalls that we all need to avoid. For parents perhaps the biggest of these is thinking about internet safety for kids.
Never Mind the Joneses – Try Keeping up with The Kids
One of the main problems that many parents face is the fact that technology just keeps on developing – and very rapidly at that. Keeping up with all of the changes, trends and potential risks can be difficult enough in our own day to day lives, without also having to become an IT expert at home. However, some simple practical steps and making use of the powerful parental control software available these days can help to keep your children safe online.
The internet is now part of nearly every aspect of our lives and it can only be beneficial for children to use IT from an early age – given that it’s likely to form a significant part of their education and later, their working lives. Actively encouraging them to use it (as if you’d need to) is very important. Introducing them to the rules of safe internet use at the same time is equally important. Talk to them about staying safe online regularly – a little and often is the best approach. The often part is also important – technology changes all the time so this shouldn’t be a fraught once only ‘birds and bees’ style talk.
Understanding what your children are doing online is important. Again, it’s good to talk in this context. Your kids are best placed to keep you informed on what they’re up to online! Ask what websites they like, what’s their favourite part of these sites, what their favourite games are and who do they play them with. With teenagers these questions will be seen as a basic infringement of their human rights, so start well before their teenage years to “familiarise” them with your inquisitive nature!
It is imperative that you learn how to use parental control software. There are quite a few third-party solutions that offer a far better protection than the built-in parental controls that Windows come with. With the help of such a tool, you can filter the internet to shield your kids from inappropriate websites and content, including pornography. You can even monitor their social media activities to ensure that they are behaving responsibly and not putting themselves or their reputation in danger by sharing too much personal information online. Digital child-protection tools are designed to watch over your kids and supervise their use of technology so that they remain safe even when you’re not physically present. Do not hesitate to invest your time and money in such software as there’s absolutely no room for compromise when it comes to online safety for kids.
Get Professional Help – From the Kids
The chances are that your own children will know a lot more about the web than you. Ask them to teach you about various aspects of the online world. A focus on social networks is a good idea as it helps you to see who they are talking to (and what they’re talking about) – without the need to invade their privacy and snoop! When discussing safety ask what they know about it already, what they’d advise their friends and how they’d deal with anything that worried them. This is a great way to create an environment in which they take responsibility for their own activities but it also reinforces the fact that they can always ask for help if they need it.
The Online Who’s Who
One of the major problems facing parents is knowing exactly who is talking with who online. Easy ways to discuss the topic include asking how many friends they have online, who has the most friends and how do they choose their online friends.
Children and young people often spend more than 12 hours a week online (many more hours in some cases). It’s important to set rules as to the time allowed online and it can also be a good idea to establish times of day too. Other areas where you might want to agree rules include which websites they can visit and how to behave towards others online.
The Great (Connected) Outdoors
While teaching your children good online security habits is a simple way to cut down the risks; it’s important to understand that they will also have access to the internet outside of the home. Public Wi-Fi is pretty much everywhere these days and not all Wi-Fi networks have security restrictions in place. Teach your kids to look out for the “Friendly Wifi” symbol, described more fully in this article by Digital TV Aerial Installation specialists “Get Me Digital”. Also discuss with schools and other parents, what you allow your kids to access.
As the internet grows, so will your children. Keeping a regular discussion about what is and isn’t, acceptable online, is a good plan. Also being willing to relax the rules and remove restrictions as your children gets older is vital.