Keeping kids sheltered from the dangers in the world might be the number one goal of parents, but as our children grow older, it can become more difficult for parents to navigate. Especially these days, there is a world of information and with online access, children and teens may be viewing things that you aren’t even aware of. With so many ways for children to get online these days, from computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, it can be hard to know what your child is accessing online and what the effects might be.
What Parents Should Know
While you might think you know your way around search engines and assume that free sites online are relatively harmless, there are plenty of sites, forums, chatrooms, and alternative search engines that could get your child access to areas of the web you would rather they avoid. Here are few common gateways that can lead to trouble for unsuspecting children who are innocently trying to connect with peers or find out more about their interests and hobbies.
Gaming and In-Game Purchases
If your child is into gaming, it is a good idea to monitor their usage and ensure that they aren’t paying for items in a game along the way that you didn’t authorize. Just because a game is free or comes with a minimal cost, to begin with, online games might offer in-game incentives. These upgrades can be easy to purchase on apps or through computer packages that are set up for autopay.
Forums and Chat Rooms
While certain sites themselves can be harmless when it comes to your child’s interests and hobbies, things can quickly unravel in chat rooms or closed forums. It is a good idea to monitor what sites your child is using and if logins are required. If they have an interest that can be enjoyed by all ages, it is a good idea to monitor even if just on occasion any posting or communications.
Video and Image Searches
While you might be familiar with searching for things on YouTube and Google, there are other, darker search engines that could lead your child to disturbing images and content, sometimes even illegal content. Check your child’s browser for specific subtopics on sites such as Reddit or Tumblr so you can decide if you would like to block these or monitor them. We always encourage that you use their device to monitor an app because some teens set up secret second accounts if they know parents are following the first one.
Social Media Sites
While you might be familiar with sites like Facebook, new social media sites pop up all of the time, and some can be more dangerous than others. Apps such as Kik and Snapchat let users post messages and pictures that many teens think are permanently deleted. Your teen might think this is a safe forum, but with screenshots, nothing that is deleted from a site is truly gone forever.
Ways to Protect Your Kids
Once you know what you and your children are up against when it comes to online safety, you can continue to educate yourself and stay vigilant on new trends online. Here are some real-life ways you can stay involved with your child’s internet usage and keep them protected even when you aren’t around. Keeping informed and communicating with your children of any age are great first steps in keeping them protected.
Look Into Protective Tools
Use a trustworthy parental control to easily block inappropriate content and websites. Discuss and set up time limits with your family. Discuss when they can be online and what types of websites or social media apps you feel are acceptable. Some parents set time limits for social media but maybe will add additional time into the evening for their teens to use their devices just for homework, listen to music, or to even read a book on their tablet. This works well when you use a quality parental control solution that cannot be circumvented. If you work together as a family and communicate your ground rules from the start you may run into fewer problems, in the long run. As your child grows older and becomes more responsible it is easy to change these rules together.
Discuss Trends With Other Parents
Sometimes, your best defense against online dangers when it comes to children is to talk to other parents. Reach out to other parents with children around the same age as yours, or those who are in your community. This works best when they are your children’s friends parents. You can discuss any new trends or dangers that might be surfacing in a certain age group or demographic. Having a team of people you can rely on to discuss internet dangers will keep your children and other local kids safer overall.
As we always say, the absolute best way to keep your children safe is to have honest conversations with them about your fears, limits you would like to set, and why. If your children feel safe coming to you to talk about their concerns, this can open the door for open communication on things like cyberbullying or other dangers they may have inadvertently run across online. If you can be there for them as a helpful resource, they won’t feel like they need to hide things from you or cover up anything that they may have stumbled upon when online. Being approachable and easy to talk to will help your child make good decisions in all areas of their life, including their online presence.
We all know that sadly, we can’t protect our children forever, and they will experiment in various areas of their life. If you can be open and honest with your children when it comes to your concerns, they will be able to make the right choices, weigh their options, and not fall to peer pressure. Keep communicating with your family and keep yourself up-to-date and educated about online dangers and trends. If you can help your child navigate safe and unsafe areas of the internet in a more informed way, the more equipped they will be to make the right decisions online!