The Internet is an amazing tool for children to learn, but it can also be an incredibly dangerous place in terms of what they may be exposed to. An innocent word search on Google can yield some very indecent material; and social media platforms can allow your children to interact with strangers from any background. Alarming reports have shown that many children are first exposed to porn at less than 11 years of age; 57% of kids have accidentally accessed inappropriate material online, with 75% making no mention to their parents; and 1 in 5 children ages 10-17 have been approached for sex online.
There are measures that all parents need to put in place to safeguard their children from the dangers of the online world. Here are three effective ways you can make the Internet safer for your child.
1. Family Discussions
It sounds simple, but awareness is absolutely key. Let your children know about some of the dangers they may be exposed to. You need to be specific with possible scenarios and how to respond. If they accidentally stumble across a pornographic image or inappropriate site, they need to have the assurance that you will not be angry.
Be sure to raise awareness about online predators—encourage your child to never use a username that gives away their name or gender, and never to accept friend requests from anyone they don’t know personally. Teach them to avoid downloading any suggested programs or upgrades.
Children are often silent out of fear and an inability to discuss what they’re exposed to and confused about will only lead to more serious issues. Incidents of cyber-bullying are increasing worldwide, so be intentional about the questions you ask your children; for example: “Did you come across anything that upset you while you were online?”
2. Online Curfews
Designate times that your children are allowed online. Whether it’s school-related, playing games or social media time, implementing a sense of purpose to their time is not only a great practice for all areas of life, but reduces the risk of random browsing.
And make sure they are using the Internet in an open space in the home—having the possibility of you looking over their shoulder creates enough accountability for them to be responsible with what they do online. Make an agreement with your child that the browsing history will never be deleted and that you have the right to check the sites they’ve visited.
3. Blocking Tools
Whether you’re using Windows or a Mac, there are plenty of apps and tools to allow you to implement control measures. Here are some suggested programs with comprehensive features allowing you to track everything from the amount of time they spend online to specific and categorical sites visited, and their social media behaviors.
KidsWatch allows a free trial and has a function for real-time monitoring of chat sessions.
Screen Time is an app developed by parents for parents. It has a great function that allows your child to “earn screen time” by completing chores and demonstrating good behavior.
Net Nanny screens what is posted on social media platforms and has an impressive content-filtering system that automatically removes any offensive material.
Safe Eyes allows you to create custom lists for allowed and banned sites, control email contact, and even filter YouTube clips.