The internet offers an attractive virtual world loaded with different activities. You can play games, watch movies, talk to friends, or read interesting articles. It’s an endless line of options that ensures you are never bored, which is why all generations use the web.
However, the online world is dangerous, and ensuring maximum safety and protection is a top priority. That particularly applies if you let your children use the internet. So, it’s not sufficient to just limit screen time, although kids shouldn’t spend too many hours online. Minutes can be enough to encounter a threat in the virtual world. Fortunately, there are ways to create a safe internet environment for children. Use these methods to boost their online security!
1. Set the Same Rules for the Entire Family
You can’t expect children to stick to rules their parents don’t follow. Experts advise implementing the same rules for the whole family. For example, if your kid can’t use the phone in the bedroom at nighttime, you shouldn’t do that either. You can discuss other periods when the internet should be off-limits, such as mealtimes or while doing joint activities.
For children, the internet is a new world. They won’t know how to navigate it, and you shouldn’t let them learn everything by experience. Explain why they shouldn’t chat with strangers or accept them as friends, and don’t forget to talk about cyberbullying. Arrange the ground rules, such as reporting any suspicious activity immediately and steering clear of certain websites. Printing the basic ruleset and hanging it in a visible place helps.
2. Ask Your Child to Self-Regulate
It’s not about restricting and punishing your child but agreeing through discussion. Try to sit down and set ground rules. Should your kid finish homework before heading to the internet? Are they free to choose when they head online can as long as they limit the time spent on the web to an hour or two ? Ask them to self-regulate, but help them by setting a timer app. That way, they’ll know how much time they have per internet session.
If you see that your child doesn’t honor the rules, install a parental control app. It helps set time limits for using smartphones and comes with other safety-relevant features. Parental apps monitor calls and messages and can notify you if a “suspicious” conversation appears. You’ll receive detailed messaging reports, so learning the slangs used by teens will help you understand the communication better.
3. Use the Powers of Technology and Conversation
Don’t forget to cover the technical basics, so install an antivirus on any devices used to browse the web. That includes computers, smartphones, etc. Many operating systems and browsers have content filtering options. You can restrict access to specific websites to reduce the chance of your kid encountering sensitive content. Here again, parental control apps can provide extended web filtering options over which can be tailored to your child’s age and maturity.
The power of conversation will help your child understand potential threats. Talk about spam emails and tell them they shouldn’t click on suspicious links, no matter what it promises to deliver. Explain why it’s dangerous to share personal information online. They might be children, but they can understand bad things could happen if sensitive info falls into the wrong hands.
4. Be a Part of Their Internet World
You can play games together online or come up with other web-based joint activities. Younger kids will appreciate your suggestions on great websites they could visit. And if they have favorite sites, express genuine interest in those. Don’t hesitate to check the website yourself to confirm it’s child-appropriate.
As a parent and experienced internet user, you should offer insights on how to interact with the virtual world better. That includes:
- Identifying a risky website and potential scams
- Ways to perform a safe internet search and find more info on the topic of interest
- Recognizing fake profiles on social media
- Understanding when the stop communication with an individual who sends inappropriate messages or exhibits different forms of unacceptable behavior
5. Always Be Supportive and Available
Even after years of using the internet, there are probably moments when you stop to think about how to act in the virtual world. Your children will face those situations often, and it’s your task to help navigate them safely.
Did your child accidentally click a suspicious link? Has your teen been receiving inappropriate messages from a stranger? They should report any problem immediately, but your task is to be supportive. In most cases, it won’t even be your kid’s mistake but simply something that happens on the web. Don’t criticize your child, but explain how to proceed. It’ll build trust, and they’ll see you as a “problem solver” they can rely on. And it ensures you stay in the loop to increase the odds of identifying a potential safety threat early!