More and more children, at an even younger age, are getting online for educational reasons as well as gaming, entertainment, and social media.
While the benefits of the internet for children can’t be denied, the open access and exposure it gives them to all kinds of information and people across the world, comes with some risk.
As a parent or guardian, the responsibility to educate your children about the risks associated with exposure to the internet falls in your court.
A good start is being open and consultative about online security with your children and discuss topics such as privacy and identity theft.
They need to understand why they shouldn’t share sensitive information, like personal details or location information, and also avoid geotagging their photos when they are out and about.
Ask them to not share their passwords, even with their friends, and teach them about password hygiene and about the use of password managers early on. Also, help the understand and configure the privacy settings on their social media sites.
As per an Ofcom report published in 2021, just under half of children aged 8-15 who used search engines could correctly identify adverts on Google searches, and about half realized that some sites within a search engine’s results could be trusted and some couldn’t. It is therefore important for parents to educate children on safe browsing practices to discourage them from unintentionally wandering off to unknown websites, as well as ways to avoid phishing attacks.
Screen Time Management
A simple way to limit your child’s exposure to the internet is by managing the time they spend on their devices. You can allow the use of laptops, tablets or phones only for a particular period of time, or set a fixed usage time per day.
You can also choose to limit the time they spend on certain apps, say Instagram or TikTok, using the built-in options on their phones or through a supported app.
Monitor Online Activity
If you are implementing both the suggestions above, it will go a long way in helping your children to protect themselves online. It may not be enough, though.
To ensure that your children are indeed safe, it is better to be aware of what they’re doing and who they talk to. You can also review their browsing history regularly or the apps they download and use the most. This can help you guide and educate your children better by explaining why certain sites or apps they visited may not be good and best avoided.
Another thing to monitor is who your children are talking to on the internet. Online gaming and social media platforms allow easy ways to chat and while it is a good way to connect with friends, around 20% of 12-15-year-olds have reported being contacted by strangers.
Enable Parental Control
If you have shared devices at home, you should enable parental control on those devices. This allows you to filter out what you want you don’t want your children to access. Most modern devices would allow you to do that.
You can also block some sites on the router. The router at your home is the gateway for internet for all your devices. You can use the router’s settings to block any sites which you think your children should be kept away from.
Parenting in this digital age comes with additional responsibilities. With multiple devices in your children’s hands and smart home devices at home, the always-connected ecosystem comes fraught with dangers.
We hope that the suggestions shared here help you keep your children safe online and help them use the internet for what it’s best for.