Kids of all ages go online on a daily basis, whether for school research, to play games, or connect with friends. Even a 2-year old knows how to operate smart devices and which way to swipe to find that video or game they are looking for. While this is common, for parents it can create another level of worry. Kids may be unaware that, while there are many fun and entertaining games and videos online, there is also danger lurking.
As a parent, teaching your kids a few simple safety and privacy habits can go a long way towards helping to protect and educate them while they are navigating the online world. Consider these basic tips for keeping your kids safe online.
Teach them about cybersecurity early
It's easy for children to see the benefits of the internet, but an understanding of phishing, viruses, and even online communication etiquette are things that they must be taught. While their teachers at school may go over certain aspects of internet safety measures, you can help your kids get off on the right foot by teaching about cybersecurity at home. When your kids are young and still use the internet with your help or supervision, it's a great time to start the conversation about cybersecurity, including how to create secure passwords, how to identify secure websites, and other web-browsing safety basics. No one wants to discuss the dangers and bad guys out in the world. But as adults, it is important to talk to our children about the dangers of online relationships and personal information sharing.
Restrict access to risky sites
When your kids are surfing the web under your direct supervision, you are right there to see what they see. When you can't be there, you can set up parameters around their access to certain websites that you consider inappropriate or risky for them to use. Many popular internet browsers allow you to use parental controls to make internet searching more kid-safe. Use the parental controls built into entertainment devices, video game consoles and operating systems to turn off internet connectivity, disable digital purchases and restrict interactions to pre-approved friend lists.
Monitor what they are doing
Many kids have TVs and computers in their rooms. It is important for parents to know what their kids are watching and what they are doing on the internet. Moving computers and TV into the main, common areas of your home will help you monitor what your children are watching and seeing. When this is not possible, there are apps and web filters that you can employ while kids are out of your sight. When these technologies fail, encourage your children to speak up when they encounter questionable content or situations.
This tip might not fall into cybersecurity, but it's still important. You can encourage moderate internet usage by limiting your kid's access to it. You can restrict screen time and internet usage not related to schoolwork to specific times, like on the weekend or after their homework is finished. This helps to instill healthy habits in your kids when it comes to using technology. Create and enforce house rules: Experts recommend no more than an hour and a half of screen time daily, balanced with other low-tech activities. Be a good model of this behavior too, as kids learn well by observation.
Stay in the Loop
Teaching kids about cybersecurity will be an ongoing practice, as the web is constantly transforming. You must educate yourself so that you can educate your children about online dangers. Keep yourself up-to-date on simple practices that can increase your security on the web. As your kids grow older and become web experts themselves, maybe they will be teaching YOU about the latest in cybersecurity. No parent likes to think about teenagers sexting or being cyber bullied. However, as parents we can help our kids by staying informed on the latest negative trends. Watching the news, you can find out about the social trends (positive and negative) your kids are facing today.