How to keep kids safe online?
A generation ago, if our parents found us talking to strangers, they would simply confront us and instruct us to “Not talk to strangers”, “Not take anything from someone we don’t know”, and so on. SImilarly, it was relatively easy for parents to keep a tab on magazines we read, be involved in shaping our opinions and keep us away from content that wasn’t deemed fit.
Fast forward to now! A world of information can be accessed at the tap of a few buttons. We regularly interact with people we’ve never met. And ‘anonymous’ has become synonymous to ‘online’.
Is this something to be concerned about? Maybe not for us, adults. But, for children, ‘yes’!
A student might get online to gain academic edge, but might end-up wasting time on non-stop entertainment available online. A teen might be looking for informational videos, but might get exposed to inappropriate content. A harmless online-acquaintance could be an online predator in disguise. And if and when, a child would rather discuss something with anyone other than parent, they turn online. And that is why, we shouldn’t take ‘internet’ for granted.
So, are we hear to tell you to get your child off internet completely? We would never suggest something regressive and counterproductive like that. For internet has numerous uses for young children and students, if harnessed right.
Follow these 6 easy tips to safeguard kids online
See the “online world” through “their eyes”
Sit with your children when they are browsing the internet, observe how they traverse it and how the recommendation algorithms reveal the internet to them. See the path they follow to learn more about a topic of interest. Do this as much as you can. This will help you see the “online world” through their eyes. Then, you can give them more relevant tips on safe browsing. The rules you lay for “what to click and what not to” become more meaningful.
Invest in a parental control software
A parental control software is a helpful resource that enables parents to control the access to internet and other specific applications. You can regulate the internet and block sites deemed harmful. A sophisticated software will even allow you to monitor their entire activity. Parental control softwares are available as standalone solutions, as well as add-ons in various leading antivirus solutions like Bitdefender, McAfee, etc.
Become your child’s friend on the social media & confidant off it
Even if your child gets ‘smart’ at not letting you access their daily activities and interactions, by observing their friend circle you can be aware of potential concerns. Also, by being a supportive parent online, you can get them to share their inner fears and aspirations without hesitation. Being a supportive friend online, gives you the leverage to ask them about what they did online, what they saw, who they talked to, if they give any personal details anywhere, etc., understand the unaccounted hours and then guide them.
Have the tech-talk
How is your child’s understanding of the virtual world. Is your child aware of terms like cyberbullying, social solicitation etc? Time to have the tech talk. Sit with your son or daughter and help them understand the pros & cons of the internet and consequences. You can use some real-life examples and let them do their own math.
Keep a close eye on their behavior and confront them immediately if you find anything alarming. Take action if you notice any of the following -
- Quickly closing a screen when you walk into the room
- Talking to people whom they never met
- Accepting gifts from friends you are not aware of
- Sleeping with mobile phones or laptops
As adults, you have to be a little creative and find ways to get as closely involved in your child’s life as possible. One last word of advice is to empathize with your child, and to see the world through your child’s eyes before guiding.