3 Ways to Protect Your Children Online

The Internet can be a dangerous place for children. Chat rooms are full of predators, identity thieves, cyber cats, and scammers looking for vulnerable targets. If what kids can see and hear online doesn’t scare parents, it should.

At the same time, the Internet provides great opportunities for learning and connecting with friends and family. Banning your child from online completely eliminates those opportunities. Furthermore, if children are online without parental knowledge, they become the most likely targets of all.

Striking a balance is probably the best approach you can take with your children. Being aware of potential hazards and using safety precautions will help keep them out of harm’s way. Here are three ways to keep your kids safe online.

1. Monitor their surfing.

Parental controls are one of the best ways to protect your children when they are using the Internet. Kids are more likely to get into trouble when left to (and on) their own devices.

Start by placing the home computer or tablet in a central family location, not in the bedroom or office. This makes it easy for you to keep track of what sites your kids are accessing while you do other things. Knowing that you are there, children are less likely to try to access unrestricted websites and chat rooms.

You want your child to be able to communicate with you and vice versa. But the smartphone gives them uninterrupted access to the Internet and social media. That is until it doesn’t.

Get a kid’s phone to stay connected with your child — designed with their safety in mind. These phones enable calls and texts, have cameras and GPS, and provide access to limited, secure, third-party apps. There is no access to the internet or social media, so children are not left to their own devices with this.

2. They use parental controls.

Most internet service providers, device operating systems, and platforms these days offer parental control options. There are also programs that block access to certain websites and prohibit the sharing of certain information, such as credit card numbers. But they don’t work without parental involvement — you actually need to use them.

Suppose your children get home from school before they get home from work. This could be two or three hours of time they can be online without your supervision. While you can check their browser history when you get home, it’s better to have them wait for you.

There are software, hardware, and subscription service options that allow you to control when your home Wi-Fi is available. You can set a limit for a child’s time online and filter which sites they can access. It’s almost like you’re there, even when you’re not.

While all of these solutions are designed to be user-friendly, they can be cumbersome, and some are expensive. You may need to set up a unique profile and pay for a separate subscription for each child. Also, parental controls work on devices you control but don’t apply if your child uses a friend’s Wi-Fi access.

As is true with most parenting issues, parents can only control what they can. For the rest, you need to educate your children about online dangers. If you do, they can make better choices when they’re out of your supervision.

3. Do “The Talk.”

This is not about the birds and the bees. It is about the potential dangers of the Internet. Both, however, are about life.

Conversations about the Internet are not so different from conversations about the dangers of offline life. There is stranger danger, they are not allowed in adult places, and their bodies are private. There’s also talk about not being afraid to ask questions and share your concerns, no matter what.
The same topics should be addressed in the digital world. Remind your kids that you want to know who their online friends are and how they met them. Advise them why not share information such as their home address, full name, or where they go to school.

When you have this conversation, avoid sounding like you’re lecturing or scolding. Instead, make it part of the discussion by encouraging them to ask questions. You want to educate and reassure your children, not scare them out of their wits.

It’s your job as a parent to set some rules and hold your kids accountable for following them. They are more likely to comply when they understand why the rules are there in the first place. Make sure they know you only want to protect them from real-world and virtual dangers.

The world can be a dangerous place.

Albert Einstein, himself a parent, said: “The world is a dangerous place to live in. Not because of people who are bad, but because of people who don’t do anything about it.” Certainly, parents have to do something about the dangers of the world to protect their children.

Parenting is hard, and the digital world makes it even harder for you as a parent. The embodied threats you may see now are lurking online. It’s a challenge – but one you have to accept.

Just because you’re less tech-savvy than your kids doesn’t mean you can’t protect them online. All three ways to do this require a parent’s instincts, common sense, and, if necessary, a little help from a technician. It’s worth the fight.

Leave a Reply