Being online is a fact of life for today’s children. It’s not a novelty, it’s all they know, and the arena they’ve grown up in.
But while the first all-digital generations are often more technologically savvy than their parents, they’re still kids. They’re vulnerable in what can be a dangerous digital world.
It’s unrealistic to keep your children on too tight an internet leash, never mind keeping them offline altogether. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do plenty to protect them.
1) Be Upfront and Realistic
It’s not a good idea to sugarcoat the truth about the dangers of being online. While there’s no need to scare them unnecessarily, it’s important that children fully understand that there are real risks.
Just as you educate them not to blindly trust strangers in real life, they need to know that not everything online is as it seems.
They also need to be taught how to treat others well online, so that if they’re on the receiving end of abusive behavior or bullying, they can recognize it and alert you to what’s happening.
2) Use Content Filters and Blockers
There are plenty of software packages available that block access to unsavory or dangerous websites. Install them on every device in your home, and keep them updated to protect against the latest threats.
The same goes for antivirus software. Kids can innocently click on dangerous items that adults would treat with suspicion, so make sure you install effective virus and malware protection.
3) Install a Child-Friendly Browser
You can go even further by installing a child-friendly browser that limits access to only those sites you approve in advance. This is especially helpful for younger children, although it’s unlikely to work well as they age and become more net-aware.
Children grow up fast, but it’s often easy to forget how innocent and naive they are underneath their sophisticated surface.
4) Use Ad Blocking Software
And don’t overlook the dangers of online advertising. Today’s platforms track users by many means, and can occasionally get confused when many people are accessing the web from the same devices. If you don’t want your children coming across promotional material aimed at an adult audience, block all advertising using adblocking software.
5) Control App Access
Use the inbuilt parental control features of iOS and Android to restrict the installation of unknown apps on your kids’ devices, so you can keep a close eye on what they’re using to access the internet.
6) Monitor Usage
Also, use time tracking software to monitor which apps your children are using and how long they spend on them. Modern mobile devices have these kinds of features built-in, or you can install software such as Screen Time or similar. Both will help you spot if your child is spending more time online than you’d like.
7) Create Separate Accounts
If your home has devices or computers which the whole family shares, make sure each one has separate accounts for your kids to use. You can keep these locked down more tightly than the adult accounts.
8) Install a VPN
A virtual private network, or VPN, is a way of keeping your internet usage secure and private. Consider adding a VPN to your home router to make sure all your traffic is encrypted. This is good for security overall, but especially helpful in reducing the risks unwary children can encounter.
Children grow up fast, but it’s often easy to forget how innocent and naive they are underneath their sophisticated surface. You can’t realistically stop them going online, but following these tips will help keep them safe and secure in the digital realm.