We live in a world where tech is inescapable. It permeates every aspect of our lives, and while we can recall a time when it wasn’t so dominant, our kids are growing up as ‘digital natives’ – a generation that have never known life without a smartphone. Online, things evolve rapidly, so trying to keep up with everything your kids are doing can be tough. And yet we want to know that our children are safe, balancing their screen time with other activities and being kept away from things that could be harmful. So what are some practical steps we can take to ensure this?
Be Open About Online Safety
It’s a good idea to introduce the topic of keeping safe online at an early age. Explain that the internet can be valuable for finding information or keeping in touch with friends, but that can also have some dangers and that not everything on there is true. Topics like phishing, not accepting friend requests online from strangers, and checking before buying anything on an app store or online site should all be covered in an age-appropriate way.
Control Your Wifi Access
Your wifi connection is the gateway to the internet at home, so ensuring that it’s properly set up can be really useful for keeping kids safe. Most internet providers will let you activate parental controls that can be managed by a master account, shut off access to certain categories of website and sometimes let you set time limits on individual devices, which can help you regulate internet usage and stop children being able to access sites when they should be doing homework or asleep.
Get Smart About Phones
Smartphones can enhance our lives in so many ways, but they can also provide a way for kids to undertake activity that you may not be okay with – certain messaging apps or social media. If you’re looking to see what they get up to when they think you aren’t looking, here is a list of apps that will let you remotely monitor the situation. You can also enable parental controls on their smartphone to help limit the use of certain apps or build in screen time limits, managed with a separate password so that kids can’t change them back.
For younger children, it may be a good idea to set their devices to forget the wi-fi access each day – this means that your kids can’t get online when you aren’t present to monitor things. Make a rule about only using computers and tablets in the main living space rather than in their rooms. Be vigilant for any changes in behavior and explain in simple terms that you need to make sure they are staying safe while browsing. Don’t hover over their shoulder every minute, but do periodically check in with them while they’re online.
Keeping kids safe online is so important. But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Establish a few simple rules and practices from the start and you’ll gain a lot in peace of mind.