Life during the pandemic has been difficult for parents and guardians and children alike. Children of all ages, daily now, are turning to their devices for learning, playing games or interaction with friends. This increase in screen time adds another layer of worry for parents and guardians. Now more than ever, how can parents and guardians ensure that their children are being safe online and making sensible decisions?
Have conversations early
Be honest, open and build trust, explain why it’s important to be careful while online. Having these conversations early can set your child off on the right foot on how to use the internet safely and how to be cyber safe. Educate them on how to use secure passwords, how to identify secure webpages, how to look out for scams, what appropriate online behavior looks like and many other foundational skills. Be sure to also ask your child questions about what they do online, such as what sites they visit and who they talk to. Practice what you preach by setting a good example with your own online presence.
Be cyber smart
Consider these six helpful tips for keeping your kids safe online:
- Set some ground rules
Help moderate screen time by setting boundaries for how long your child can spend online and what they can do. Screen time not related to schoolwork can be restricted to after homework is finished or to weekends. It’s also a good idea to keep computers in a common area and monitor your child’s activity.
- Restrict internet access and monitor activity
You don’t have to be a cyber pro to protect your computer and children. Parental control apps and those built into devices, computers, and Wi-Fi routers are easy to use. These controls allow you to set access times, monitor internet activity and block website categories. Keeping an eye on what your kids are doing online will help to keep them safe. Use this as an opportunity to discuss with your child which websites are appropriate for their age group.
- Don’t give out personal information
Remind your children to never give out personal information, such as, full name, home address, passwords, location or telephone number to anyone they don’t know online whether through social media or online gaming. To keep their personal information safe, tell them to create different passwords for every online account they have, and then monitor their accounts for elicit activity.
- Careful with strangers
Talk about the risks of interacting with strangers whether through social media platforms, discussion boards or online gaming. Instill to never agree to meet anyone outside of the chat. If they want to have an ‘offline’ conversation with this person, they should tell you to arrange a safe way to meet.
- Pause before you post
Teach your children to be mindful of what comments and pictures they post online. Explain that once it’s online, it will remain on the internet. This is especially important as kids grow up and are looking for a job; most employers will do a basic online search of potential candidates. Talk to your kids about their social privacy settings and teach them the difference between private and public/open chat rooms.
- Be a friend, not a bully
Talk to your children and educate them to report offensive or hurtful comments to you immediately. If you suspect they’re being cyberbullied, keep communication lines open, so they feel comfortable telling you if they’re the target. Also, remind them to be careful about what they say, send, or post about someone else — unintentional bullying is still bullying. Reading or forwarding mean messages empowers bullies and hurts victims even more.
By educating yourself, you can better educate your child(ren) and reinforce good internet habits. Check out our Parent/Guardian guide to familiarize yourself with more ways to help keep children safe online.