Following up on my post about children being less safe today than when we were children (spoiler, they're not in general). I want to talk about internet safety. Now when I was a kid there was no internet. I mean technically it existed but it was not in use by children. Of course now everyone has access to the internet and our kids are using it younger and younger. My five and three year old have their own Kid's Fire tablets. And, I love them because they are super locked down and I control all content.
But, what about when they get older? This is something which scares me a lot. While kids are safer today than they were in the 70's and 80's (yes really!) the internet is something new. Kids today are less likely to be abducted by a stranger, hit by a car, go missing, and are all around safer now. But, kids today are more likely to meet a stranger online, become a victim of cyber bullying, engage in risky online behaviors such as sexting. You name it, the internet opens up a whole new world of risk.
What can we do as parents?
Mainly, we can stay vigilant and incorporate some rules to help keep our children safe. As my children get older staying on top of this is a concern of mine for a few reasons. One is that technology is constantly changing. I like to believe I am tech savvy but new apps are being created all the time, and the time may come when my kids know much more about them than I do. Two, kids lie.. I mean come on. They may not tell us everything we need to know. Keeping communication open and having an open and trusting relationship will be a big help but I worry the day may come when my children do not want to be open with me. Three, at some point my children will deserve some privacy. That day may be far away but I am already worrying about the loosening of control and what it means for my family.
Here are some tips for keeping our children safe online I have picked up from various sources.
Common sense approach to internet safety
First, have an open and communicative relationship with your children. Instill internet safety tips and rules from an early age. Ultimately as much as you may try to control what your child is accessing the best defense will come from teaching them how to keep themselves safe online.
Let your children know to keep private information like their address, phone number, school info and passwords to themselves. Do not share this information with people they only know online. It's also a good idea to never share password information with friends.
Talk to your children about posting pictures and information about themselves online. Make them aware that even if they remove something later it can live on forever once it's out there.
Do not talk to strangers online. Just like you wouldn't in real life, do not engage online either. Internet predators use games and apps to engage children. They may pretend to be your child's age.
Try to keep track of the apps, games, and sites your child visits. Check their email and social media accounts as age allows. Of course as they become teens they will want and need some privacy but this day is a long way away for me.
Keep your internet devices in common areas of the house. Keep phones and tablets out of the bedroom. Again, this will change as kids become older but it's a good start while they are young.
Talk to your children about cyber bullying which is using tech to target someone or harass. If your child is the victim of cyber bullying encourage them to talk to you about it and discuss it with their school.
Use parental controls for internet, TV, and phone access. I love my Fire HD tablets because I control everything. Monitor your children's usage.
Know there are laws to help protect children online. Websites must adhere to federal laws when it comes to children under 13. They may not collect personal information from them without parents permission.
There is much more to be written on this subject. This is a summary of basics to keep in mind. My children are young so I still have a lot to learn about this as well. It's something I am thinking about and focusing on now though so I am prepared as they get older.
I also like this safety contract for parents and kids I found here.
Please let me know your thoughts and if you have any questions at all!