The Internet is the answer to a parent’s need to provide unlimited information for children’s educational needs. It is also a parent’s nightmare of uncensored information readily accessible to anyone who knows how to click and surf the Web.
The World Wide Web is a wealth of infinite possibilities—a collection of all knowledge every produced or accumulated by mankind since the dawn of time, and available on smartphone the size of a shirt pocket. The scary part is that a 5-year-old child is probably savvier about its use than the majority of adults around her or him. So what’s a parent to do?
First of all, don’t wait until some ideal time to broach the subject with your children. Start early and establish definite boundaries. The Internet can be fun for kids, so start with entertainment and games, then slip in a lesson or two about what is good information and what is bad. Most 2-year-olds can operate a smartphone and click around a computer, so it’s not too early to teach boundaries and rules.
There is a fine line between protecting children and completely invading their privacy. Even kids entering young adulthood should be allowed a certain degree of privacy in order to develop into responsible adults who can make good choices for themselves. Parents have a responsibility to guide children to good choices.
Guiding children to good choices
Parents should develop open discussions with children early on. Assure them it is OK to talk about any issues they face. Stay informed about current cyber threats and trends so you can teach your children to be safe. Some of the most common threats are sexual predators, hate speech, bullying, phishing, radicalization and more. Find out what the latest threats are and develop a plan for how to tackle each one.
Keep your computer in a common area of your home. Kids are less likely to encounter online trouble if an adult is nearby. “Friend” and follow their online activities. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest make it easy for anyone to post any sort of information online, even information that is dangerous or inappropriate. If your child knows you are interested in their activities and social media sites, they may pause before clicking on that link or hitting that send button.
Parents also have access to online monitoring tools such as TrueCare, Avira and Instant Checkmate. These monitoring systems are more about identifying danger signs than about spying. They can target keywords like alcohol, drugs and suicide, and send weekly reports to parents. They can also alert parents to potential risks such as bullying, stalking or abuse. Avira will email you if a sex offender friends your child or if inappropriate photos of him or her appear on the Internet. With Instant Checkmate, you can find out if a stranger is showing an interest in your child and get a comprehensive background check on the individual in question.
Stay informed so you don’t have to stand behind your child and watch over his or her shoulder when they are on the computer. You will rest easier and your child will be safer for your continued involvement.