Rohan is a 13-year-old happy child. He was good in studies, participated in extracurricular activities and was the apple of his parents’ eyes. All of a sudden his behavior changed. He became a recluse, refused to go out to play and became irritable. His parents tried every trick in the book to know the reason for this sudden change in his behavior, but could not find out the reason. One day the kid attempted suicide by trying to jump from his building. He was lucky that his neighbors noticed and saved him. His parents were severely worried and scheduled a visit to the psychiatrist. After a few sessions with the psychiatrist, they came to know that Rohan was playing an internet game, which was forcing him to indulge in risky behavior and suicide. A vigilant parent might have easily avoided this situation by knowing a few Kids internet safety tips.
Lurking games leading to Tragedy
We all must have heard such instances off-late. Suicide games like blue whale challenge and Momo challenge are ruining the lives of vulnerable children and teenagers. Children are lured into playing these games unknowingly and once they start playing the game, they are blackmailed and threatened with dire consequences if they stop the game midway, inform about it to parents.
In the modern world, where children as young as 7 and 8 years have access to smartphones and laptops, it is becoming increasingly difficult for parents to monitor their activity and know kids internet safety tips and realize what the children are up to. Children of this age are very vulnerable as they do not understand what is risky and what is safe. They trust everyone and give away personal information and photographs to strangers, who speak to them nicely. This makes them easy targets for cyber abuse and molestation.
Parents have to be very careful when they give children access to smartphones, laptops and the internet. You have to remember that one small act of negligence can lead to lifelong trouble. It is crucial to monitor the child’s activity regularly to ensure they are not indulging in risky behavior. Here are some kids internet safety tips for parents.
The first important task is to ensure that your child does not install any unwanted apps. There are too many apps that encourage the child to live to stream their activities and share sensitive information. Children try different tricks to conceal certain apps from parents, but it is crucial to educate yourself about the latest apps used by children and ensure that they are appropriate. For instance, there are certain apps that allow users to hide some photos, videos, and other apps. You have to stay abreast of developing technology to ensure that your kids do not become soft targets for the prowling molesters on the internet.
However, most of us know that it is difficult to strictly monitor the internet use of children. Children get defensive and feel that we do not trust them when we check their internet profiles regularly. In this scenario, most parents are puzzled with only one question “how to protect my child on the internet?”
Kids Internet Safety Tips for Parents
- Place All Devices in the Living Room
The location of devices such as PCs, laptops, and other digital devices is critical to ensure the safety of children. Always place digital devices in the living room or in such an area of the house, where you can routinely observe the child. Do not allow children to use smartphones in the privacy of their room. Make a rule that everyone uses the laptop in the living room and adhere to the rule. This will allow you to keep a tab on the child’s online activity and ensure they do not get exposed to inappropriate content.
- Educate the Child About Safety
It is not possible to keep a check on the child always. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to internet safety. It is essential to educate children about the importance of safety while using the internet.
Know in the kids internet safety tips and Teaching them about internet safety in an age-appropriate manner. You have to discuss the pitfalls of giving personal information and photographs to strangers, and let them know the dangerous consequences of such actions.
Do not allow them to post their pictures and personal information on social media pages. If they are old enough to understand, let them know about dangers such as cyberbullying, photo morphing, and identity theft and their repercussions. Prepare the child to be safe while using gaming apps, social media, and other websites. Teach them never to share their passwords with anyone except you, and never allow them to meet someone in private without your consent and supervision.
- Browse Together
Spend time together when surfing the internet if the child is too young. Be with the child when he/she is using the internet. This will allow you to control the content and keep the child safe. You can act quickly and reassure the child if anything inappropriate suddenly comes up.
- Frame Rules
Frame family rules for the use of the internet or social media. Allow children to participate in the process and take their ideas. The rules should cover things like what is the maximum screen time allowed for each person, the place for browsing the internet, the apps and sites that are allowed to be used, sharing information with each other and not giving out personal information and personal photographs. Make sure that everyone in the family follows the rules including yourself. You cannot expect the child not to share photographs when you are posting them on social media sites.
- Do Not Post Childs Photographs Online
Your child may appear cute and beautiful all dressed up and you want to share the pic with the world. But remember that it is not safe. Any information or pictures you share on the internet can fall into unauthorized hands and lead to serious ramifications. Restrain yourself from posting the pictures of your kids on Facebook, Snapchat, etc. if you want to share the pictures, at least change the privacy settings and choose who can view the picture.
- Use Child-Friendly Search Engines
When you allow the child to browse the internet, make it a point to use child-friendly search engines. For instance, Kiddle, Kidtopia, kido’z are some safe and kid-friendly search engines. These search engines are safe to use by children as they pre-screen sites for age-appropriate content. Since most of these search engines have parental controls and site blocking features, you can be sure that the child is not exposed to unwanted content.
- Use Parental Controls and Devices Settings
Most of the times keyword searches lead to unexpected results, which may not be suitable for young kids. It is advisable to set up parental control on your smartphones and PCs. This will enable you to control the content your children are exposed to. Turn off Autoplay features on video viewing sites like YouTube to prevent children from viewing content that they are not searching for. Studies show that children ages 12 to 17 are frequent visitors to pornographic sites. And 70% of these kids have encountered pornographic material accidentally when they were searching for something else. Using parental controls and filters will help to keep your children safe from such inappropriate content.
- Develop Trust
Older children and teenagers may not show interest in surfing the internet with you. They also feel violated when you check their online activity. It is essential to develop trust with children. Educate them about the perils of the internet and assure them that you are always there, should they encounter any problems. Encourage them to share any issues they face while surfing the internet, using social media sites or gaming apps. Do not judge them but work together for solutions.
- Make Them Aware of Risky Behaviour
While sharing a selfie with friends now and then is okay, make them aware that sharing pictures with strangers is risky. With the rising instances of sextortion, it is absolutely essential to teach young children about safety. Sextortion involves using sexually explicit materials such as photos and videos to blackmail the victim. Make the children aware that they should not share personal photographs or videos with anyone, not even with their friends. Studies report that in majority cases of sextortion, the suspects are personally known to the victim. To protect children from sextortion, instruct them to stay from anyone who asks for nude photographs and immediately report the incident to you. Make them aware that likes and shares on their posts are not as important as their safety. Constant dialogue and discussion will help the children to understand the effects of risky online behavior.
- Use Web filtering Tools
Invest in a good web filtering application to ensure that you have control over the websites and apps used by the children. There are many web-filtering apps that let you restrict access to certain websites and apps.
- Strictly Monitor Social Media
With the use of social media getting popular day-by-day, many social media applications are springing up every day. Facebook, Twitter, Instagrams, Snapchat, Whatsapp, etc. are some of the social media apps frequented by children. Do not allow young children to use social media as it has many dangers. Ask your children not to believe anything that is shared on these social media and be careful with whom they interact with. For example, momo challenge starts with a WhatsApp message and later leads to devastating consequences both for the children and parents.
Instruct children not to accept any requests from anyone without your consent. Sometimes children become part of cyberbullying activities without their knowledge, it is essential to speak to the children about cyberbullying and make them aware of the consequences. Teach them to stand up against what is wrong and report the instance immediately to you or any other trusted adults.
- Monitor Online Purchases
Do not share your credit/ debit card passwords with children. It is important to monitor their online purchases to ensure they are safe from phishing scams. Though most games and apps are free, they require some on-site purchases to proceed to the next levels. These purchases can be risky as children can end up sharing critical information about bank accounts and credit cards. Never allow children to make online purchases on their own, even if it is online shopping. Ask them to choose the things they need and place them in the cart, and do the payment yourself. Keep strong passwords for your online payment apps and do not share them with children.
- Supervise Game Time
Children love to play online games as they are fun and exciting. Moreover, they also love the challenge of competing with other players. However, it is necessary to supervise the gaming apps and know what the children are playing. For example, the blue whale challenge is a game that slowly lures players to participate and then forces them into life-threatening situations. No matter whether your children are into console gaming or PC gaming, it is important to set parental controls and block games that you feel are not suitable for children. You can always change the settings according to the maturity level of children.
In today’s digital world, we do not have the option of keeping the kids away from the internet. Hence it is important to follow certain internet safety tips for parents and children. As they say “ prevention is better than cure”, keeping children safe from dangerous online games and apps is always better than facing serious repercussions later. Keeping the digital devices in a common location, having basic internet rules for the family and educating children about online safety are some basic things to do to protect your children from the threats and dangers of the internet. Open communication also plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety of your child.
On a final note
Encourage the children to discuss any suspicious requests or threats on gaming or social media platforms, and report cyberbullying and other suspicious activity to the concerned platforms and cybersecurity organizations. And lastly, follow what you preach, set an example by adhering to the kids internet safety tips and measures. Be careful about the content you access on the common laptops, smartphones, and Pcs in your home.
Encourage the children to spend time away from the gadgets. You can take them to parks, zoos, museums and other places of interest in and around your city, develop the habit of book reading, or allow them to play outdoors. Sending your children to experiential learning programs also helps to keep them away from the internet. These programs allow children to learn important life skills in a fun and engaging manner. Indoor activity-based programs from Pencil voyages help kids to pick up new hobbies, make friends, and nurture analytical skills.