Today’s kids have access to the Internet 24/7 and from a variety of sources, like laptops, tablets, smartphones and game consoles. That means it’s harder than ever for you to protect your child from the multitude of Internet dangers.
To help you, we’ve brainstormed seven cyber safety strategies. While no approach is fail proof, we hope that by using a handful of our tactics in tandem you’ll reduce the chance of your child becoming a victim.
1. Use parental control software.
According to a study by McAfee, by age 16, 56 percent of teens conceal their Internet activity from mom and dad. That’s unsettling news. But parental control software can make their activity much more transparent.
At its most basic level, parental control software records your child’s Internet activity and blocks inappropriate material. However there are a number of parental control software choices and they offer a wide range of features, including the ability to restrict access to certain keywords, games, and websites. Some programs create detailed reports about your child’s online activity and even alert you via text message when he or she has attempted to perform a restricted function (such as joining a social network). It’s a good idea for you to tell your child his or her activity is going to be monitored before you do so, and talk to him or her about your expectations. Want to learn more about parental control software and find out if it’s right for your family? Read this extensive review.
2. Place the computer in a highly trafficked area.
Tweens and teens may have access to the Internet through their personal devices, like smartphones, but younger children still use the family computer to get online. Placing it in a high traffic area where parents and older siblings can see what’s going on helps minimize the chance your young one will end up somewhere they shouldn’t be. And if they do, you’ll know about it. If your child is under the age of 7, it’s smart to sit with him while he uses the Internet. Use the opportunity to teach him safe Internet practices.
3. Bookmark for safety.
The more time children spend “surfing” the web, the greater the chance they’ll come across inappropriate images or other unsuitable material. As soon as your child begins getting online, show him or her how to bookmark their favorite websites so you can hopefully help them avoid spam or inappropriate sites.
4. Avoid downloads.
Sexual predators and other criminals often target kid friendly sites with colorful banners, ads and games. Teach your children to always ask permission before clicking an ad or downloading. In addition to the fact that your child could be exposed to sexually explicit films or images, your personal information could be exposed. Use software to protect your personal information against spyware and viruses.
5. Set limits on late-night use.
As children gain independence it’s harder and harder to do, but setting limits on late-night Internet use at an early age can help minimize the chance your child will be contacted by a pedophile. That’s because sexual predators often work during the day and spend evening hours targeting children. They also realize your child has less supervision during evening and late-night hours, making them especially vulnerable.
One way to make sure your kids aren’t on the family computer all night is to have it in a room they can’t access once the home monitored security system is set. While having a security system can keep your home safe, this is one of the additional perks of having one that you may not have thought about.
6. Establish rules and take control.
The Internet has become such an intricate part of our children’s lives, we sometimes forget that using it is a privilege, not a right. Establish rules for Internet use, and post them in an area where children congregate, like in the kitchen. Ask older children to help create rules and the consequences for failing to abide by them. Keep in mind that even your first grader needs Internet boundaries. Remind all family members that like most rules, the ones you set for the web are to help keep them safe.
This FBI website offers fun, age appropriate lessons (3rd through 8th grade) about cyber safety. Based on an interactive island exploration game, it’s not only educational but it’s also cooler than listening to another safety lecture from mom or dad.
7. Stay in the loop!
Even the hippest parent has a hard time keeping up with today’s changing Internet trends and technology, but it’s critical to do so. Chatting with other parents is one way to find out what kids and criminals are up to these days. Making a call to your local law enforcement agency’s cyber crime unit and asking about recent Internet crime will help you stay in the loop, as will checking the FBI’s crimes against children stories. You should also find out if your state maintains a website focusing on Internet crimes against children, like this Missouri site.
Today’s children are born into a technology-based society and learn how to access the Internet at an astonishingly early age. As parents, it’s our responsibility to talk to them about the dangerous of the Internet, teach them safe Internet habits, and use strategies like these to help them do so safely.
Written by Alexia Chianis
Wanderlust junky and mom of two, Alexia is a former police officer and U.S. Army Captain who draws on her experiences to write about a myriad of safety topics. Learn more