We’re all stuck at home, and our greatest connection to the outside world is technology. We’re using it to keep up with our job, and our kids are using it to stay on track at school until they are open again. Even though we are living through unprecedented times, our family’s safety is our top priority. While our kids are spending most of their day online for school, make sure you’re reminding them of how to stay safe on-and-offline.
The Golden Rule: Don’t Talk to Strangers
We’ve heard this our entire lives, and for good reason. On and off the screen, do not talk to strangers. This is especially true online since you never know who could be on the other side of the screen. Tell your kids to only communicate with people they’ve only met in real life. If it’s someone they’ve never met, they just don’t if that person is who they say they are. You definitely don’t want to instill any unnecessary fears in their heads, but if you’re open with them and transparent about why you have this rule, they may be more likely to follow it. You should tell your kid to come to you as soon as possible if someone, either someone they know or a stranger they have talked to online scares them.
Be Aware of Each Device Your Child Uses to Go Online
In 2020, our kids usually have access to the internet on many devices, not just the home desktop. Keep track of the devices they use, from their phone to the iPad. This way you will know when they might have a device in their room or another part of the house, and you can manage them.
Know Your Kid’s Passwords
Use this tip especially with younger kids. While you don’t want to hover over them all day, you also want to be sure you have access to their devices and accounts. This may change as your child gets older and you want to allow for more privacy. In that case, make sure your older children understand the responsibility that comes with that privacy.
Even Now, Set limits on Screen Time
Everything in our lives feels upended, including the rules we usually implement in our households. When I was a nanny, I would allow for a half hour or so of screen time, and then create an activity that took the kids away from their screens. However, with all of us at home, all the time can we blame our kids (or ourselves) for escaping into the screen a little? You can readjust limits on screen time to limits of time alone on the screen. Play video games with your kids, watch movies and T.V shows. “Share” the screen with your kids in a way that’s fun and safe.
Check with Your ISP for Parental Control Options
For a tech-based solution, investigate what Parental Control Options are available for you with your Internet Service Provider. With parental controls, you can block websites, chatrooms, instant messaging services, view user activity and get alerted if someone tries to change your settings. There are also applications you can use that can help you monitor your kid’s internet usage and screen time across devices. Apps like Net Nanny, Family, and ESET all provide this service.
Talk About the Dangers Openly with Your Child
The biggest way to keep your child safe is to communicate with them. If you make rules for them, explain the rules, be honest about the dangers of cyberbullying, online predators, and inappropriate content. Answer their questions frankly and explain why caution online is vital. AVG Internet Security conducted a survey that asked parents and guardians if they talked to their children about online behavior and found that out of almost 10,000 participants, only 43% said they discussed it on a regular basis. This means too many kids are left on their own when it comes to the internet and maybe unnecessarily exposed to dangerous situations they may not know how to handle. You can change that by talking to them and build trust and transparency when it comes to their online behavior.
You can’t control everything your child does on or offline. However, you can take these steps to gain some peace of mind about their safety, and you can feel some comfort in knowing you’re raising a technologically responsible child. Keep communicating and stay safe!