The internet has grown exponentially in the past decade alone. We can now submit assessments, sign digital permission slips and take quizzes all online. Our children have grown up with the internet and may often be the ones helping us with computer problems, but that doesn’t mean they know what is and isn’t safe online.
Here are 5 ways to keep your child safe on the internet:
- Talk to them
As simple as it sounds, sitting down and having a serious talk with your child can be enough to make them realise that the internet can be more than just a harmless tool for homework, communication and fun. Some great discussion ideas include:
- Explain that not everything online is what it says it is, and not everyone is who they say they are.
- Ask your child to get your permission if they are asked to provide personal details.
- Ask your child to get your permission if they are asked to pay for anything (be careful of in-app purchases in smartphone games).
- Warn them of the real-life consequences of the things they say and do online.
- Ensure them they can always talk to you if someone is bullying them online.
- Reassure them that even if they are worried they have done something wrong online, they can still talk to you if they need help.
- Use parental controls
Every good internet browser has some form of parental controls and there are plenty of great applications that can help protect your child like Qustodio or Family Zone. These can do things like block certain websites, alert you of any suspicious searches or activity, and monitor screen time.
- Be aware that the internet is on more than just computers
Gone are the days when the availability of the internet was limited to computers. Smartphones and tablets have had internet capability for a while now, but what about smart TVs? Most modern gaming consoles now rely on the internet to function and allow some level of internet browsing and access. Another very recent trend is virtual home assistants like Alexa or Google Home. These voice-activated speakers may not have a screen but are still internet enabled and provide opportunities for your child to search inappropriate topics.
- Set a good example
If you spend a lot of time around your kids with your head in your phone or sat at your computer browsing the internet, your children will notice. It is important to demonstrate positive online browsing habits and safe internet usage, as so much of what our children learn comes from watching us.
- Limit time online
The internet can have a negative effect on your child, not only because of the possible dangers they may face, but because of the amount of time they may spend online. Average time online and general screen time has only been increasing and is shown to have a number of negative effects. Also, the more time spent online increases the possibility of your child having a negative experience. It is especially important to limit screen time in the hours before bed. Blue light from our devices has been proven to make it harder to fall asleep, disrupt the sleep you get and make you feel groggy in the morning.
With all the advantages and positive uses of the internet, it has understandably become a staple in children’s education and everyday life. Dangers do exist online, and our children are in many ways well equipped to spot them from afar, but that doesn’t mean they are always safe. There are still plenty of situations they are not equipped to deal with and plenty of material that they should not be exposed to. It is important you are active in monitoring your child’s online safety.
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