Internet Safety for Kids – How to Keep Your Children Safe Online
There are only a few things a parent can do to create a safe browsing environment for their children, and do so in a way that doesn’t make them look like an over-protective control freak. It might be better to let your children be exposed to "inappropriate" content on purpose because they'll grow from the experience and learn about the realities of the world but you still want to retain a certain degree of control and know all the options you have available to help you counter the negatives and understand your child better.
You can easily block out all pornography/violent content but this does nothing except reaffirm in your children's head that it’s inherently bad and there are still ways to bypass most of the filters because internet access is easily manipulated. However, you should be on the lookout for certain signs that tell you whether you need to act on behalf of your children. Mild monitoring is always appropriate, especially for young children.
Most browser and consumer electronics contain a degree of parental controls and they usually place you in the "admin" position and give you leverage over the entire network. This is usually the case with wireless internet systems that give you overview of all the websites visited (organized by device) and they allow you to block out websites at will. It's not smart to filter out websites because it will further encourage your child to access them by sheer stubbornness but if you notice your child is spending more time on a certain website you might want to hove a discussion about it and see if they're being taken advantage of. Most internet service provides provide security software by default and you can inquire about monitoring software that will list the most visited websites on your network. You can usually see which websites were visited the most based on device.
DANGERS FOR CHILDREN
Safety has been a major point of concern since the introduction of web 2.0, social media and instant chat rooms because it quadrupled communication and allowed strangers to get in touch with each other as if it's normal. There is no immediate danger in 99% of cases because "predators" are usually not on the lookout online, actively scouting for children but there were certain cases where children were abducted or people's houses were robbed and people businesses were destroyed because they revealed personal information.
There are a few main dangers to be aware of as a parent, and these should be your priority. Don't let monitoring companies scaremonger you into believing predators are actively looking to get your children. This is certainly not the case. There are still a number of valid concerns:
· Identity theft. This is more common with young adults than small children but identity theft is rampant on the internet and you should be very careful about the information you share with your child to make sure none of it ends up exposed on the internet.
· Bullying. This is not as serious as real life bullying but there are "self harming" communities on the internet and if you have a depressed child it might be because he/she is spending too much time being influenced by the wrong people. Internet feedback is immediate and this can seriously affect children’s self esteem.
· Recruitment. Most people take their information from the internet and almost every idea your child has will come from there. Your children could be recruited for hate crimes even if you don’t notice they resonate with that. Most events are organized online. This is not only in the US, but most ISIS recruits were young internet users who saw videos of them glorifying the war and decided to join. If they had no access to the internet they would have never found out. This is not to say that our children will be recruited by radicals, but recruiting and influence go hand in hand. There are never-ending content streams that your children can be influenced by thus it might make sense to install light monitoring or limit their internet access. If you have access to monitoring software you can look at the most visited content and discuss it later.
· Drugs. The internet is a communication device and people share social cues a lot faster, making getting access to drugs more straight-forward than in real life. Most kids won't go to a dangerous area to get drugs but if they're offered some by a friend they can develop an addiction. This is not a major concern with light drugs but if your area has a rampant drug problem it's something to consider. The internet takes the awkwardness out of the process.
ADVICE FOR CHILDREN
Don’t Give Out Information
This is the most important thing you can do because it not only affects you, but it will affect your entire family if certain information that is supposed to stay private is suddenly made public. If your dad is the owner of a business you might put him in danger by exposing such information. If you put information such as your phone number or address you are more prone to identity theft and harassment. You should also refrain from sending pictures to people you don't know because it’s hard to tell if they are real profiles or not. This is applicable for private sharing apps like Snapchat as well. The best way to stay safe is to only send pictures and information to people who know in real life.
Report To Your Parents
If someone is threatening you on the internet you should let your parents know because you are only making it worse on yourself by not reporting it. Be suspicious of emails and messages you receive by strangers because they might be leading you on and your parents will know for sure. If you find websites that reveal private information about your family, let your parents know because you'll be doing them a great service.
Don’t Meet People
If someone invites you to a meeting spot the best way to know they’re not leading you on is to see if you have mutual friends that can vouch for them. You should also consult your parents about it because it's hard to read the real intentions of people you’re talking to online. If you're meeting another kid you should meet them in a public spot where it’s always packed and you can bring a parent with you.
Ignore Abusive People
The best way to handle online bullying is to ignore the bully because they can't do anything unless you keep giving them your attention. There are toxic individuals you don't want to engage with because they'll keep making you feel nervous. You can report them or tell your parents about them if they live nearby because your parents can talk to their parents and get them punished.
Refrain From Downloading Software
Most viruses are contained in games/program installers and you want to avoid downloading software unless you have an antivirus to scan them. You should be careful about downloading programs because some of them might contain dangerous software and install tracking information on your computer without your consent.
ADVICE FOR PARENTS
You don't want to have rules for which websites they should visit but instead you should create rules about emails/messengers and the content they upload. For example, tell them not to send personal information to strangers and make it a rule to always consult you before they can reveal personal information. You can also tell them how to deactivate the location feature on popular apps.
Keep Track Of Passwords
You should be very careful about sharing passwords with your children because they might share them with their friends and this applies for business-related passwords. You might want to condition your child to using certain apps as long as he/she gives you the password. This way they'll be on their best behavior until they're old enough and you fully trust them to handle their own accounts without supervision.
Watch Your Children
This doesn't mean observe their behavior secretly but spend time on the internet with them and see where their attention turns to by default. They might surprise you because children are capable of understanding nuanced technology and they pick up information very fast. If you only spend an hour or two browsing the internet together every day you'll learn more about your child than you would in a month of secret monitoring. They'll be eager to show you certain things that might shock you and they'll probably share what they want for their birthday/holidays. This can help you in other areas of your parenting.
The most popular browsers don't offer monitoring by default and you have to purchase separate monitoring solutions that usually come with the internet service and provides coverage across all internet connections. This is the smart choice but you can also purchase monitoring/filtering applications for different browsers. For instance, if your child is on a Mac you could purchase parental control software for Safari. This will give you the standard monitoring options such as keyword/website filtering and you can get reports on the most visited websites. Monitoring services have age filtering for different websites and you don't have to plug in websites manually because they usually have a list of the most popular social networks by default.
Parental Controls On Devices
Most parents feel awkward about blocking their children from visiting certain websites but there are times when you want to punish your child and this is when you should know how to use advanced parenting settings to keep them off the internet. If your child has an Apple device, there is a separate "Restrictions" section in the settings where you can turn off apps like YouTube/Safari and you can also disable new App installations/Location sharing if they try to bypass that by installing different browsers. iTunes also has great parental controls for children of different ages.
There is one last hack that works on both Apple/Android devices that children use to bypass parental controls and this is signal changes. Most of these settings apply only when they're on the Wi-Fi network and as soon as they switch to the carrier, the parental controls disappear. This is why you want to double-check whether the measures stay after you switch between networks.
Most monitoring systems will come with a "safe search" functionality that automatically blocks out certain keywords and disallows your child from accessing the results. You can select keywords based on niche without blocking out the full range of "inappropriate" content.
There is no certified method to establish parental controls because it varies on a case-by-case basis and even if you do everything right something bad might happen nonetheless. This is the reality of the situation and it’s why you should apply common sense. You shouldn't get too paranoid about “predators” and “viruses” because they are not as common as the media will lead you to believe but you should be aware of the influences that are going into your child because the internet is the biggest influencer for the new generation and blocking websites can only incline them to want to visit those websites even more. You should apply light monitoring, consult your ISP about the different monitoring options you have and make your decisions based on that. You should also spend a decent amount of time browsing the internet with your children because this is the best way to understand what they respond to and what their influences are.