Guest post by Amy Cavendish (thetechfools.com)
The technological advancements we enjoy today trickles down to all generations – including the kids. As of 2018, it was estimated that 94% of all 3 to 18-year-old children had access to the internet from home. The same study uncovered that 88% of these children had computer access, and some 6% had smartphone access.
The numbers are shooting through the roof, and we can boldly say that the stats would have gone upwards since then.
As adults, we know that the internet is awash with many resources – both good and bad. That makes it essential to help children finetune their internet experience lest they get on the wrong business end of things.
Online Risks Faced by Children
We cannot discuss how to help kids get the best of their internet experience if we do not know what they are up against. While there is an extensive list of that, we have collected the salient points that informed this piece.
Some of those are:
Bullying is a severe problem for kids when growing up.
With the aid of the internet, these bullies need not leave their homes anymore. They only need to have internet access and have a way to reach out to your children.
Bullies can be those your children have come in contact with (classmates, neighbors, etc.) or strangers. No matter which, that doesn’t downplay the severity of the situation.
As an adult, the same kind of content you can consume on the internet might not be suitable for your kids.
Pornography, violence, and such other graphics content are available on public domains these days. It is not even difficult to find such content, no thanks to the power of search engines.
Unfortunately, your kids don’t need to search for these contents before they see them. Ads, interlinking, and spam emails make all these happen.
It is sickening to know that some older people are online to prey on little children.
They could meet in game rooms, on forums, or other parts of the internet. They start gaining the trust of the child until they get intimate with them.
This intimacy can involve but is not limited to sharing sexually explicit images, threats, and obtaining of personal information (name, DOB, home address, school, etc.) and more.
With limited experience in how things work, it is not uncommon that kids fall to scams and online hacks.
Phishing attacks are a prevalent form of attack that kids fall to.
Imagine getting a link that promises them a few dollars only if they could fill in their credit card details to claim the reward. As an adult, you know better not to trust those scams. But do your kids?
Unfortunately, not preparing your kids against such will blow back on you in most cases. This makes a case for establishing an online security protocol for them.
What Parents/ Guardians Can Do
The internet is vast, and you cannot possibly monitor/ police your kid’s online activity 100%. However, you can make moves to limit their exposure to the ills of the internet while preparing them to handle the rest on their own.
Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Have a Conversation
Set time apart to discuss the internet with your children. It helps if you start from an early age to grow trust in you whenever they come across anything that seems off.
Don’t go the approach of painting the internet as this very dark, evil place, you might just be piquing the natural curiosity of your kids, leading them to want to discover how dark it is.
Instead, let them know about the benefits and demerits of the internet. Slowly build them up with information, and they can understand – and they will become more aware of what they are delving into.
Some of your talking points should include:
- How to differentiate safe and unsafe sites
- Setting strong passwords and keeping them safe
- What kind of information is okay/ not okay to share online?
- How to use report and block features
- What kind of content do they need to bring to you?
- Basic education on phishing attacks, etc.
2. Set Parental Controls
Most internet-enabled devices that your kids will interact with should come with parental control mechanisms.
This includes their gaming consoles, streaming services, online accounts, and more.
When that is available, set those controls so that your kids are not exposed to inappropriate content. Some platforms (like YouTube and FB Messenger) even have a version dedicated to kids alone.
For complete monitoring, install parental control apps on their computers. This flags inappropriate activity while also allowing you to keep an eye on their internet activity.
3. Install Security apps
Parental control apps are not the only kinds of apps you need on your child’s computer.
You should consider downloading a VPN to their device if they have a mobile unit. Should they make the mistake of connecting to a free/ public Wi-Fi network, their internet data will still be protected.
A VPN on your home router also prevents their online contacts from tracking them down via their IP addresses. This gives you and your kids a higher level of anonymity.
Antivirus software is not out of place either. This prevents your kids from unknowingly downloading malware onto their computers, which could compromise the entire home network.
4. Device Management
For the formative years of your kid’s life, it is not advisable to give them a dedicated device of their own.
A shared computer can be provided, which is placed in a visible area of the home. That way, they don’t have the urge to do anything sinister while online. A home tablet can also be set up so that the kids can use that whenever.
As they grow into adolescence, you might need to get them a smartphone. Don’t forget to set up parental control, allowing you to track their location in real-time.
By the time they grow into young adults, they should have learned all they can about managing themselves better online.
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