How was life before the Internet? You probably can’t remember. The Internet has become such an important tool for individuals and organizations these days that the United Nations has even gone ahead and declared Internet Access a basic human right. The United Nations emphasizes the transformative nature of the Internet to enable people to exercise their rights to freedom of expression and opinion, as well as promote societal progress.
However, the pervasiveness of the Internet has opened the floodgates to crime and other harmful influences. According to the FBI, cybercrime is the fastest growing crime in the world. Whenever you go online and interact, you can never be sure who is on the other end. Most adults have some measure of wisdom to deal with dangerous and harmful interactions but children are vulnerable. Stories abound of how underage individuals have had dangerous encounters with strangers, been bullied, extorted or, viewed sexually explicit content and violence.
What do you as a parent when the odds seem stacked against you? We offer a few Internet safety tips for parents below.
Unfortunately, while the large majority of parents may have some street-smarts when it comes to conducting themselves online, they have a dearth of information when it comes to privacy and safety. You can only help your child stay safe online if you have the knowledge to impart in the first place. So, the first step is to educate yourself on all matters to do with Internet safety. There is a lot of material online and the fact that you are reading this article is a good first step to educating yourself. Tech Corps is a non-profit that maintains a database of Internet safety resources and is a good place to continue your education. There are also a number of blogs that are solely dedicated to the subject of child safety online such as Safe Kids.
Educate Your Child
Your child’s best defense while online is education. An informed child will not fall into the common pitfalls. There are a number of things you should emphasize to your children as noted below:
- Make friends offline – Encourage your child not to make friends online. Friendships should always be established offline unless there are very compelling reasons to do so which the parent is aware of. Befriending strangers is often the first step to a series of unfortunate events.
- Set Privacy Controls – show your child how to set privacy controls on social media accounts and check to make sure it has been done. Allowing every Tom, Dick and Harry access to personal information such as photos and contact details, including location, is a recipe for disaster.
- Avoid Personal Photos on Twitter – With Twitter, you have to be extra vigilant as a parent. A tweet containing personal information can be halfway across the world in an instant through retweets. Once retweeted, your child effectively loses control of the information. Also, ensure your child isn’t tweeting with their location by unchecking Tweet location in Privacy and Settings.
- Delete Inactive Social Media Accounts – old social media accounts could be leaking your child’s personal information without your knowledge. Find and close such accounts.
- Encourage Critical Thinking – teach your children to be analytical and think critically about anything they read online. Not everything they read or watch is true.
Don’t Ban Technology
Some parents respond to concerns about Internet safety by banning technology in the home. Nothing can be more counterproductive. Forcing your children to live like hermits will have the opposite effect. It is likely that your children will use the technology behind your back. And, because they can’t come to you for information or advice, they will be fair game in the online jungle. As already mentioned The Internet is beneficial for society as a whole. You need to harness the power of the Internet to help your children learn and become productive citizens.
While banning technology is not encouraged parental control tools are encouraged especially where you need to block content that contains violence, sexually explicit or content you wouldn’t want your children exposed to in the first place. All streaming services have a parental control feature. The same goes for smart TVs and YouTube. You can also block certain IP addresses on your home router. If you aren’t a techie, you may want to request some assistance from your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Set House Rules & Encourage Open Communication
House rules are important because your children may decide to circumvent your parental controls. A smart and determined kid will always find a way to get around your censorship. This is why you need to get some “buy-in” from your kid(s). Let your kid(s) appreciate the importance of respecting Internet house rules to keep everyone in the household safe. It helps to encourage open communication. Let your children question the rules and explain to them why they need to be followed. Open and frank communication is key to ensuring that rules are followed.
What Do You Do if Your Child is In Danger?
Finally, what do you do if you realize that your child is in danger as a result of interacting with someone online? Well, there are a number of options. If your child is being bullied by another child online and the identity is available, you can contact the parents or the school. However, if your child is a victim of an online scam or has made contact with a predator, you are unlikely to find the crooks’ identity on the website. First, make a report to the law enforcement authorities and then do some sleuthing of your own. A people search website such as Nuwber can help you uncover the identity of just about anyone. Once you have the identity of the criminal, provide the information to law enforcement.
The foregoing is a good starting point for Internet safety for kids. We stress the fact that an Internet connection doesn’t only deliver the positive aspects of social interaction to the home but the negatives as well. Following these tips to mitigate the risk will ensure Internet safety for kids at home.