Children are growing up in a world where technology is constantly evolving and ever-present. As a parent, you want to do everything in your power to protect your children from harm. But knowing how to keep children safe online can be difficult, especially with something as complex and ever-changing as the internet.
Proactive measures and open communication are vital in keeping children safe online. Here are seven ways to keep children safe on the internet:
1. Install Parental Controls on Your Devices
Parental controls can help you manage what your children can do and see on their devices. You can use them to set limits on screen time, filter content, and block inappropriate websites and apps.
For example, if you have an iPhone, you can use Screen Time to set limits on how much time your children can spend on their devices. You can also set up specific apps and websites they're allowed to use and block everything else.
Android devices have similar features built-in, or you can download third-party parental control apps.
2. Talk to Your Children About Internet Safety
Talking to your children about internet safety from an early age is important. Teach them about online predators and how to spot them, cyberbullying and how to deal with it, and to never share personal information with strangers online.
Explain why it's important not to respond to messages from strangers or to share personal information like their full name, address, or school name online. You can also teach them how to report cyberbullying, block unwanted contacts, and avoid scams.
3. Encourage Open Dialogue
Learn about whom your children talk to online. This is the most important step. Ask them about their favorite websites and apps. Discuss with them their online experiences, both good and bad.
Make sure they know they can always come to you if something makes them uncomfortable, and you're always there to help if they need it.
And if you're concerned about someone they're talking to, you can use an image search to see if the person's profile picture is their own or if it's been stolen from someone else online.
4. Educate Yourself on the Latest Online Threats
Cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new ways to exploit vulnerabilities, so it's important to know what they are and how to protect against them.
One of the most common ways scammers target children is through phishing scams. These emails or messages look like they're from a legitimate source, but they're trying to trick you into giving up personal information or clicking on a malicious link.
Teach your children not to click on links in emails or messages from people they don't know. If an email looks suspicious, even if it appears from a friend or family member, they should come to you first or contact the person directly to verify its authenticity.
Another common threat is malware, or software designed to damage your computer or steal your personal information. Malware is spread through email attachments, malicious websites, and compromised legitimate websites.
Ensure your children know not to download anything from people they don't know or unfamiliar websites. And teach them never to click on pop-ups or ads, as these are common ways to distribute malware.
5. Keep Your Devices Updated With the Latest Security Patches
Most major operating systems, like Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android, regularly release security updates to patch known vulnerabilities. So it's important to install these updates as soon as they're available so your children's devices are always up-to-date.
Doing this will help protect your devices against the latest threats and make it more difficult for cybercriminals to exploit vulnerabilities.
You can typically set your devices to update automatically, so you don't have to remember to do it yourself. But if you prefer, you can also check for updates manually and install them yourself.
6. Help Your Children Develop Healthy Habits Online
Just like in the real world, children need to develop healthy habits when they're online. That means not spending too much time on their devices, not having them in their bedrooms at night, and taking breaks from staring at screens.
Encourage your children to participate in other activities, like playing outside, reading, or spending time with family and friends. Help them understand that they don't need to be online all the time and that it's important to have a balance in their lives.
Teach your children about healthy digital habits, like not responding to mean comments, not posting pictures that could embarrass them later, and not sending personal images of themselves to others.
Help them understand that what they post online is permanent, even if they delete it later. Once something is posted online, someone can take a screenshot of it and share it without your child's permission. A good rule of thumb is “if it is posted, then it is forever.”
7. Be a Good Role Model
One of the best ways to keep your children safe online is to be a good role model. Show them how to use technology responsibly and respectfully.
Avoid sharing personal information about your children online without their permission. When posting pictures of them, use privacy settings to control who can see them and consider not tagging their location.
Please be sure to teach your children to think before posting on social media, chat rooms, or sending an email. Once something is online, it can be saved and shared beyond their control.
And finally, lead by example by demonstrating healthy digital habits yourself. Limit your screen time, put away your devices during family meals or when spending time together, and take breaks from staring at screens.
Your children are more likely to follow suit when you model good behavior.
You Can Keep Children Safe Online
You can keep children safe on the internet by following the above tips. Being aware of what your children are doing online and talking to them about internet safety are definitely the first steps in setting expectations. Keep the lines of communication open and let them know they can come to you with any concerns. The medium is ever-evolving, so doing your best to keep up with trends will help.
Being proactive can help ensure your children have a positive and safe online experience.