You’re a well-informed parent. You take your time to educate yourself on the current issues. As I’m sure you’re aware, the internet, though useful, may not necessarily be the safest place.
You have even heard that 1 out of 3 internet related sexual crimes occur on social media. Great. Now it’s time to take action. How exactly can we protect our children from the numerous dangers we’ve heard and have been warned about?
Before getting them a device
Research into the device capabilities
Before you get them a smartphone or device, it is important to know the specifications, its capabilities. Such as does it support parental controls? Can my child make unrestricted purchases? Would it allow strangers to contact my child? Etc.
After they get the device
1. Set ground rules for use
Set and agree on clear guides such as what types of apps they can download, sites they can visit, and when they can have access to electronics. You can try “blackout” periods.
Basically, these are periods where the Wi-Fi is off, or phones are disconnected from the internet phones and must not be used. Consider the use of a drop off box as a creative way to enforce this.
2. Utilise Parental Blocks
Parental blocks are parental control software that allow parents to control, monitor and restrict certain online activities of their children on social media.
3. Spend time, attention and have active conversations with them
As much as the big corporations would hate to admit it, parental control software and blocks don’t guarantee your child’s online safety. The best way to ensure this is to spend time with them. Engage in active conversations and give them attention. That way, you will know what is going on in their lives.
4. Lead by example
Practice internet safety as a family. If blackout periods are set, everyone – especially you – should comply. The rules apply to you too. How we act daily deeply affect how our children would cope with and adjust to life.
Words tell, but actions teach.
5. Report Misuse, abuse and bullying
Whenever you come across any provocative or violent content, you can report them to any and all authorities starting in the app. All applications have this feature.
Don’t be afraid to report cyberbullying and abusive content. There is no such thing as ‘over-reporting’ them.
6. Learn about social media platforms
It is essential to be aware that it is there can be brutally violent content on social media. Some apps even allow for pornographic content. What this means that your child needn’t look for porn to come across it on social media. So as parents stay informed on the apps your children use.
7. Teach your kids tricks online predators use
Teach children the common tactics used by online offenders/groomers. Such as liking their posts, sexual conversations, asking for or sending nude images etc. Encourage them to tell you should they ever be in such a situation.
8. Privacy settings
Utilise privacy settings. All apps have privacy settings. In this case, these settings allow you to adjust who can view or follow your child’s activity, posts, and what content comes into his/her timelines.
9. Try to postpone the age they are allowed to join social media
You can agree as a family that they do not join social media until they are at least 13. Or if they must join before then, their account will be logged in on your phone as well. Doing so ensures a level of maturity before joining social media.
Your kids might not tell you everything, but be free to ask. Frequent Talks about Safety will do a lot of good in building trust and communication.
Get immersed in their world. If your children enjoy playing online games, ask them if you can play, too. They will be more likely to respect your rules and talk to you if you show genuine interest in their hobbies.