In the past couple of decades, we have witnessed an irrevocable transition with digitization. Fast-evolving innovative internet technologies and affordable access to its usage have given rise to the popularity of smartphones and smart homes. The change has been particularly profound for adults, who lived their childhood without the convenience of high-speed internet connectivity as they reminisce how they were the coolest kid on the block if they owned a PlayStation or fancy colored pens.
However, today’s children don’t even bother to award anyone the status of ‘the coolest kid’, even if they have a high-tech smartphone, tablet, or the latest PlayStation because for them, it is the norm. Our children are increasingly relying on the internet to fulfill their entertainment, social, and educational needs.
However, this hyper-connectivity comes with its own risks. Parents lull themselves with the fragile belief that just because their kids are safely indoors, they aren’t vulnerable. The risk to their mental and physical safety however is greater and ever more treacherous as they are given free rein of internet-connected devices.
In a national survey, 19% of children between the ages of 10-17 reported that strangers on the internet contacted them for sex. And one in seven reported that these nefarious predators approached them on multiple mediums. In another study, it was reported that children are far more likely to have easy access to age-inappropriate and violent material online such as suicide content, information on weaponry, drug abuse, graphic content on sexual abuse, etc.
Parents however cannot hover over their children’s shoulders 24/7 and monitor what activities they are doing online as not only it is implausible, but the child may resent the encroachment on their personal space and wouldn’t fathom that it’s for their own safety.
Therefore, we have some insights on how you can protect your child online while ensuring they get the full benefits of technology.
- Ingrain the Dangers of the Internet in your child’s Mind
With untethered access to the internet, children think that the digital world is their oyster and they can do anything they like. Such thoughts and beliefs can inadvertently push them towards the meaner side of the internet.
You have to teach your child that with power and privilege comes responsibility. If they aren’t responsible and cautious, they may lose their privilege or it may be curtailed. Parents must take an active part in their learning, and ensure that children can adequately comprehend it.
However, it can be difficult for children to retain important information, especially when it is of serious nature, so you have to educate them in their own language and jargon. You can make up a story or take help from children’s storybooks that demonstrate internet safety hazards in appropriate language and can pave the way to a comfortable conversation between you and your child. There are books available in the market such as Chicken Clicking, Troll Stinks, It’s a Book, Penguinpig, Monkeycow, Little Bird’s Internet Security Adventure, and Webster’s email.
- Have a Conversation, Don’t Issue Orders
Parents should have frank and open conversations with their children about sensitive issues. Tiptoeing around the subject because you cannot figure out the best way to communicate is going to do more harm than good. And outright terse orders without any good explanation is only going to drive them towards the very thing you forbade. Besides, if they ever get into trouble or come across inappropriate material, they will be reluctant to share it with you, as they will assume that you will scold them or confiscate their device.
You have to understand and teach your child that mistakes are part of the learning process, and the best way to learn is to have a conversation about it. If you are a stern parent, you may need to adopt a more approachable visage to have these useful conversations. Moreover, you need to rein in the urge to tell them what they should have done and shouldn’t have as it is going to be discouraging. Act like their friend and deal with the issue as partners, ask for their opinion and thoughts on it, and what should be done to avoid any unpleasantness on a digital platform.
- Make Use of Parental Controls Solutions
If your child comes across inappropriate content on the internet or converses with a suspicious stranger, keep in mind that confiscating their smartphone or gadgets would not solve the problem. It is only going to cultivate resentment and mistrust in your relationship, and eventually, you will have to return them the device as it is not an era where one can thrive without internet connectivity.
However, supervision of children is necessary and it shouldn’t hurt their sense of freedom either. So make use of parental control software that will do the job for you.
AT&T Internet plans include robust parental control protections along with safe internet access, through which you can restrict offensive websites and searches. You can even receive updates via email on your child’s online activities and see show which sites they usually visit and if they tried to access a blocked website. You can even limit their internet usage to thwart constant exposure to the screen.
- Have an Online Security Software in Place
Parental Controls limit internet usage so your child cannot access inappropriate content, but it is not always enough as you can only block the threats you are aware of but the internet is a bottomless pit. Online security software offers another layer of protection as they prevent malicious malware and viruses from impinging on your child’s internet experience.
Children more often believe anything they see online if a suspicious website asks them to click on the link to win free tickets to the Disney Land, they are surely going to click on the link. An anti-virus would block malicious links from sites and halt suspicious downloads on the device. And an anti-malware is an added security measure as it protects the device against malware.
So never let your child use a device without an anti-virus and anti-malware software installed on it, and make sure that the software and device are up to date. Lack of proper updates is a chink in security armor that cybercriminals actively look for and exploit to gain unauthorized access to your device or network.
- Tell them Dos and Don’ts on Social Media
You may have ingrained the dangers of the internet in your child’s mind, but they need to know what actions they should take to protect them against such dangers. Too often harmless and minor actions bite back with deleterious consequences. So prepare a list of dos and don’ts for them and explain to them what will happen if they take those actions.
For example, guide them on keeping their personal information closely guarded, especially from strangers, such as their last name, date of birth, school name, a place they often visit at a certain day or time, phone number, and any such identifiable information.
Ask them to never share their social media accounts or device credentials with anyone, even if they are their best friend. It’s not okay to let anyone else access their personal accounts.
Tell them to not trust everything they see on the internet if they want to buy something on the internet, ask them to come to you for advice first.
Lastly, ensure that they understand that anyone asking for their nudes or sex doesn’t have good intentions for them, and they should always inform you about such things so you both can deal with the danger together.
The Internet is a vast ocean and these safeguard applications may not always be enough to protect your child online. What can work well is open and frequent communication between you and your child. So talk to them, make sure they know you both can solve any seemingly insurmountable problem together, and do share your own experiences so they know they aren’t alone.
Baldwin Jackson is a successful digital marketer with expertise in search engine optimization and content marketing. The perfect balance of his analytical ability and creative thinking is what sets him apart from other practitioners in the digital marketing realm. He has helped a lot of small and medium-sized businesses in crafting their digital marketing strategies that are not only cost-effective but delivers results as well.
Baldwin is also a proud father of two kids and a Sports enthusiast. When he is not working, you will find him watching ESPN and NFL network. He has been able to get an amazing package on his favorite channels from Buytvinternetphone.com.