As parents it’s our jobs to keep our kids safe. With our kids online more than ever and the internet being so much more advanced than what we dealt with as a kid; it can be hard to know how well we’re really keeping them safe. So to help parents with these concerns, we’ve come up with five tips to get you started on helping keep your kids safe online no matter what device or internet service provider you have.
The best way you can keep your kids safe online is keep the conversation open. Talk about online safety with them and don’t let it be a one and done type of conversation. Make sure they really know and understand that if something were to happen, it’s always safe to come to you no matter what. It’s also important to let them know you won’t be angry, so if it were to happen instead of them being ashamed and hiding it, they will come to you immediately.
Your kids won’t know what they’re not taught and no matter how old they are or how long they’ve been online, there’s always something you can discuss. If they’re using any internet service enabled device, whether it’s your personal computer or the school issued iPad, then they should know the basics of internet safety. It’s important from an early age to teach them to keep their personal information personal and don’t do anything they would be embarrassed about. Teaching your kids the basics about internet safety should be an ongoing conversation to remind them what to do and make sure you’re giving them age appropriate advice.
Sounds simple but just ask your kids’ everyday what they’re up to! You don’t necessarily need to be digging deep into their online history to figure out. You know your kids better than anyone and if you keep an open conversation going, you’ll know if they’re headed down a troubled path. If they’re old enough to be talking to people online, then you already know who their classmates, friends, neighbors and of course family members are. It’s probably fine and to be expected during these unprecedented times but it’s a good idea to talk about it so if a cybercriminal was pretending to be someone they’re not or they’re being cyberbullied, you’d find out.
Let’s face it, there’s no possible way you can watch what your kids do online every second that they’re online. This is where parental controls come in. You can source them from just about anywhere, but if you purchased a decent router, you may already have access to them without you even knowing it. If you haven’t downloaded your router’s app, now is the time to do so. You can look in the app or simply google your router’s manufacturer and model. It’s good to download the app anyway because it’ll help you manage your Wi-Fi in the future. If it turns out your router doesn’t have parental controls, your internet provider may have a service or you can purchase an independent parental controls tool. Just be sure that it comes from a reliable source.
Before you brush off using parental controls, they aren’t like they were when we were kids. They are so much more advanced and not nearly as easily able to work around. For example, with EarthLink Guardian parents can get notifications for signs of cyberbullying, drug use, depression, viewing adult content or talking to potentially harmful people. It also lets parents set web filters and strict rules on screen time by automatically setting times where the Wi-Fi is on or off and can even shut it down for the whole house if need be.
Just remember that parental controls are a tool, not something that can replace good ole fashioned parenting and keeping the open conversation going like we talked about earlier.
When in doubt, lead by example! You should be the first positive role model in your kids’ life and it doesn’t stop by excluding how you use the internet. If they see you being cautious, not oversharing and not bullying others on social media, they will be so much more likely to do the same. Just remember at the end of the day, you don’t want your kids to be afraid to use the internet. You want them to use it, just in a safe way. The internet could be one their most powerful resources and it’ll never go away. The more knowledge they have and positive reinforcement they receive will help them make safer choices online.
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