It can be a terrifying thought, but your children are online and are possibly coming face to face with thousands of strangers every day. It can be tough to know everything they are doing, especially since so many kids have smart phones that are connected to the internet.
According to Verizon, 76% of teens are using social media sites, and kids as young as third grade are getting cell phones. With kids so connected to the internet, how do you keep them safe? Here are some tips to keep them enjoying the perks of the internet without having to fear what they are doing.
Have a Talk
One of the best ways to keep your kids safe online is communication. Talking to your kids and teaching them the red flags and danger signs to look for online can save their life. According to Common Sense Media, it is important for parents to have a talk with your kids and teach them to understand a website’s rules and to know how to flag other users for inappropriate behavior. It is also important to teach your kids not to share their school’s name, their age, phone number, home address, or pictures with strangers.
It is also very important to build trust with your older kids, especially when they are around the preteen age, according to Verizon. Teach your kids that they can come talk to you if they are feeling weird about anything that happens online. Don’t be afraid to let them know that you are going to be monitoring them on social media so that they don’t feel betrayed if you come to them with questions about their activity.
Monitor Their Activity
You might be tempted to make your kids feel like they are in a police state when you are monitoring their online activity, but that isn’t necessary. While it is impossible to monitor everything your kids are doing online, there are some apps and programs you can use to help you stay on top of what your kids are doing. Verizon’s Family Base is an easy to use tool that will help parents easily monitor everything from their kid’s phone calls and texts to their online activity. Family Base even allows you to lock your child’s phone during school hours or late at night, and it gives you a list of apps that your child has downloaded so you can make sure the apps your kids are using aren’t putting them in danger.
Another great way to monitor your kid’s online activity, especially when you have younger kids, is to keep the family computer in a common part of the house and set strict time limits to when your children can use the computer. If your kids are doing something they wouldn’t want you to see over their shoulder, chances are they shouldn’t be doing it.
It is also a good idea to go ahead and “friend” them on social media websites like Facebook or follow them on Twitter. You will be able to see the people who comment and like their pages, and will even be able to see who they have recently added as a friend. It will also give you a good indicator of the amount of time your kids spend on social media sites to see how much they post.
Understand Hidden Dangers
When you think of staying safe online you probably immediately think of their computers, tablets, and phones, but gaming consoles like the X-Box or Play Station connect to the internet as well. Make sure that you are watching what games your kids are playing and monitoring their chats within the games. A lot of times if a younger kid or teen is playing an adult game, they are also talking to the other players – virtual strangers- on their headsets as they play. This might seem harmless but the people they are playing with may not be who they seem.
Another hidden danger are the location apps that many teens like to use. According to Common Sense Media, these apps, like Find My Friends and Gone Out, share your teen’s location so that they can find their friends at a concert, and sometimes it is even helpful for parents to locate their teen. The issue with location apps is that they not only send your teen targeted ads to their location, but they broadcast your teen’s physical location to strangers that might be stalking them.
The most important weapon you can use to defend your kids from online dangers is education and communication. When your child feels they can communicate with you if they have gotten themselves into a scary situation online, it can be a life-saver.
For more info on staying safe online, visit TBParenting.com
By Angela Ardolino of Tampa Bay Parenting, TBParenting.com