Many of today’s parents rode the tail end of the age of no internet. While some of us grew up with “dumb phones” (those without internet access), many of us experienced first hand the excitement and entertainment of smart phones in our teen years or in early adulthood.
Parents of young children don’t have the same innocence about smartphones that their parents did. It’s well known that the dangers of the web are rampant and some even prey on young children. While complete avoidance of the internet is not practical in today’s day and age, there are some ways to limit the negative effects of harmful internet use without giving up the perks.
In this article we’ll give you the scoop on keeping kids safe online, from turning on parental controls to fostering open communication.
Turn on parental controls
Perhaps the first and most simple step in keeping kids safe online is turning on parental controls. While this change doesn’t prevent all dangers from coming across your child’s device, it can prevent some of the most horrendous content that can be sought or stumbled across.
There are various apps, software programs and utilities that already exist on your device or that can be downloaded for free. Do some research or ask around to see what will work best for your family’s needs.
Set clear rules
Keeping your kids safe comes second nature to parents. It can be easy to set limits in daily life, like not crossing the street by yourself or not taking rides from strangers. Setting boundaries is more difficult in an abstract space like the internet.
While it might be harder to articulate rules when it comes to the massive expanse of the internet, it’s still essential that you create clear rules and establish consequences should those rules be broken. The more comprehensive the rules, the easier it will be to enforce them.
Just like adults, kids have a hard time imposing self-control when it comes to phone usage, social media and binge streaming shows. Growing in self-discipline is an essential skill that applies to many areas of life, though, and this is an excellent place to teach kids how to stretch that muscle.
Promoting self-control is more easily done with incentives than punishments. Consider this exercise: set a timer for your kids to use devices for 15 minutes. If they return the device before the timer is up, they can have dessert after dinner or choose another reward.
You can also encourage self-discipline by having kids assess how they feel after spending a large chunk of time online. Over time, they will come to realize that scrolling or wasting time online is less fun than time spent outside or with friends. This will naturally curb prolonged use of devices.
Model good internet behavior
Moderating internet usage starts with you, the parent. Keeping kids safe online means that you’ll have to limit your own exposure to harmful and excessive use. Stay away from sites and apps that encourage addictive use (those that try to keep you on as long as possible, offering an endless feed or entertainment opportunities).
One of the ways you can practice modeling good internet behavior is to use the internet with your kids. Whether you’re catching up on friend’s social media or researching for an upcoming trip, invite your kids to sit and pursue with you. Stay extra focused on intentional phone usage and don’t get sucked into extraneous tasks.
Talk about it
One of the top tips for how to keep kids safe online is to have open communication regarding internet use. There are several guides online to discuss internet safety, and the sooner you open the door to chatting about appropriate behavior, the sooner you can establish a trusting and honest dialogue.
Here are some points you’ll want to hit on when you have an internet safety conversation.
Don’t share personal information with anyone over the internet, even people you know
Don’t use wifi networks that you’re unfamiliar with (like public wifi networks)
Don’t let others use your devices
Don’t open messages or pictures from people you don’t know
Keep your accounts on private so they are not visible to people you don’t know
Only accept friend or follower requests from people you know
Don’t assume you know someone based on their profile (double check with them in person)
Don’t download software or attachments without a parent’s permission
Be smart about what you post
Don’t post anything online that would make you uncomfortable if a parent or teacher saw it
Don’t say anything that could be hurtful to others
Internet safety includes keeping your child safe and helping your child keep others safe. It’s important to mitigate against the risk of online predators, discourage bullying and protect against peer pressure that comes from social media.
Talk about ideal internet use
While there are dangers of internet use, there are also pros to being so connected. It’s important to give your kids the facts about the harms of it. Consider what your personal goals are for your kids accessing the internet, then have a family conversation about how to use the web in a healthy way.
If you’re worried about keeping kids safe online, Pyramid Online Counseling can help. With the help of a professional counselor, you can develop an internet safety plan to relieve the stress of seemingly endless online threats. Get the personalized advice and support you deserve in protecting your family. Get help now.