Keeping teens and tweens safe online continues to be a growing issue that concerns parents everywhere. Statistics indicate that 20% of youths receive hateful or harassing messages via the internet. This is not what a parent likes to hear.
As a parent, you want to protect your children from dangers both in real life and online. Learning how to keep your kids safe online is a new form of parenting that is integral to this generation. Children as young as two are already using electronic devices for entertainment purposes and will graduate to social media in what feels like no time. For these reasons, it’s important to educate both yourself and your child about online safety, cyberbullying, digital reputation, and potential predators.
What is digital parenting and is there any way to truly keep your kids safe online?
What is Digital Parenting?
Digital parenting means that as a parent, you are going to become informed and involved with your child’s online social life, and to educate yourself on how to keep your children protected. To tweens and teens, Digital Parenting may seem invasive. But its actual use is to help your children understand how to be safe online and prevent negative experiences with internet use.
Here is what you can do to become a better digital parent and educate your children about potential risks and acceptable online behavior.
Learn about the risks of using the internet
The internet is a great place for children to learn and connect with peers and can be an asset for doing homework, having fun, and strengthening cognitive thinking. However, your job as parental protector becomes much more difficult the moment your child steps onto the virtual streets of the internet.
Even the most careful child can easily get into trouble online. On the internet your child can be at the risk of sexual predators, doxing (hacking for personal information with malicious intent), viewing pornography and violent materials, being cyberbullied, and connecting with strangers online.
Nobody wants to be a helicopter parent, but when it comes to your tweens, it’s important to have access to their social media accounts. You must get to know about the different social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and Tumblr, as well as potentially dangerous or inappropriate platforms for your child to be on such as Kik, Tinder, and Reddit. Get familiar with these forms of social media so you can better understand your child’s digital life.
Check Internet History and use Internet Tools
Another part of being involved means checking the internet history and setting protective passwords.
You can download an add-on to your internet browser that is password protected. This add-on will allow you to block access to particular websites and keywords. This is great for blocking pornography. Just make sure you do it across all browsers you have, as well as on your child’s phone. Otherwise, they will be able to get around this add-on.
Another great tool to use online is called SpectorSoft, this program will take snapshots of your computer screen and then play the file like a video. This will let you know exactly what goes on when your child uses the internet.
To ensure your child has less opportunity to get into trouble online, set ground rules that must be obeyed. This may include not being on the Internet via computer or phone past a certain time of night, or on certain days. Have your computer in the main living space of your home that faces outward so nothing can be hidden.
Setting rules ensures there is no confusion about what is and isn’t acceptable when using the internet.
Explain the Importance of Privacy
There are some things your child is going to know are wrong after hearing your ground rules such as watching pornography or talking to an adult online. But, reiterate to them the importance of online privacy. Do not have your young child put their personal information such as last name, school, age, address, phone number, e-mail, or photos of themselves on the Internet. If your child does post photos on an account such as Instagram, have the account made private so that only people they know in real life can access their information.
Your child may be a victim of cyberbullying; an epidemic that is only growing as the years go on. This commonly involves someone, or a group of people, harassing and bullying a child via social media. Opposite of this, your child could be on the opposite end of the spectrum. They could be the bully. Keeping an eye on their social accounts will help you monitor potentially hurtful situations.
Talk openly about cyberbullying and underline the important of your child coming to you if they are bullying or being bullied, and also if they see someone else being bullied.
Sexting is extremely dangerous for children, whether they are texting an adult or a child in their class.
This can have devastating effects on their social lives and mental state. Explain, in age-appropriate terms, what sexting is and why they should not indulge in this behavior.
Your child’s online reputation is important. What goes on the internet stays there forever. Even if they are young now, sending sexual photos or catfishing another person can stay with your child well into adulthood. Talk about your child’s online reputation and how important it is to protect it.
Keep the flow of Communication Open
The best way to ensure your child stays safe online is to keep the flow of communication open. Express how vital it is that your child come to you whenever they feel uncomfortable online. Don’t jump down their throat when they tell you something that you don’t approve of. Instead, listen patiently, express logical reasons why the behavior or action concerns you, and talk respectfully. This will make your child feel more comfortable about coming to you in the future.
Author Bio: Sylvia Smith is a relationship expert with years of experience in training and helping couples. She has helped countless individuals and organizations around the world, offering effective and efficient solutions for healthy and successful relationships. Her mission is to provide inspiration, support and empowerment to everyone on their journey to a great marriage.