A Parent’s guide to online safety for children

As a parent, one of the things you’ll need to consider is your child’s safety online. The challenges that parents face in this department are still relatively new, and navigating them can, therefore, be pretty tough. It’s certainly not something you can afford to overlook or ignore either though.

If you’re a parent and you’re not sure about the steps you should be taking to protect your child’s safety online, this guide should provide you with the tips and insights that’ll help you out. Learning the basics and understanding how to approach this tricky topic is the first and most important step to take.

So read on now and find out what it takes to keep your child safe online and to protect them from the many threats that are out there.

Understand the Technology they’re using

First of all, you should try to gain an understanding of the technology they’re using. You’ll find it hard to stay on top of the threats and risks out there if you don’t really know what they’re using online and which platforms/websites they’re using and visiting on a regular basis. Try to talk to them about this and encourage them to be open with you about the technology and what they use it for. That way, you’ll find it much easier to ensure they’re being safe and not doing things they shouldn’t be doing.

And understand the risks

As well as understanding the technology and platforms that they’re using from day to day, you should also make an effort to truly understand the risks that they face when using these platforms. You can’t truly protect your kids if you’re not willing to do some research and really find out what the risks and challenges you face are. There’s plenty of parental guides out there relating to specific social media platforms and other niches, so be sure to read up on these and find out everything you need to know from a parent’s point of view.

Have open conversations about the need to stay safe

One of the most important things you can do when it comes to keeping your child safe online is talking to them. When you’re willing to be open with them, they’ll understand why this is so important to you. That doesn’t mean that you have to scare them in any way. It’s about being open with them about some of the dangers and what they can do to keep themselves safe. They might not take your worries seriously if you’re not able to communicate with them properly and let them know why it’s so important.

Take age ratings seriously

When it comes to the shows and movies your child might watch online and on platforms like Netflix, you should try to enforce a strict age rating code. It’s all too easy for children to watch whatever they like by pretending to be over 18 or whatever age they need to be to watch a particular piece of entertainment. But by taking control and using the parental controls, you should be able to make that impossible. You don’t want it to become the norm for them to watch content that’s not suitable for their age.

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Use Parental Controls where possible

Speaking of parental controls, you should delve deeper into the various different ways in which you can make use of them. You can set controls on how the TV is used, on all of their devices and each of the platforms they might use. And there might be some popular social media sites that have age restrictions in place. You should respect these and ensure your child is not accessing sites that are not suitable for their age; those sites also probably won’t have parental control options in place because kids aren’t meant to be on the platform in the first place.

Ensure they’re not sharing personal information

It’s pretty easy for your kids to put themselves at risk and in danger online without even realising that they’re doing so. For example, posting personal information or information about where they live and where they go to school online is never a good idea. Anyone can access that information and track them down if they want to. You should make sure that they understand the dangers associated with posting personal information on the internet for anyone to see. In short, make sure it doesn’t happen.

Maintain control over their phone network and contract while they’re a child

If your child has a phone and a contract with a mobile network, that’s something that you’ll have to oversee. As you’ll be the one paying the bill, you should also make sure that you have the right parental control settings in place. You should be able to control how they use it in terms of the kind of content they’re able to access. Content that’s not suitable for minors should be blocked and inaccessible to them in order to protect them from that kind of stuff. There’s nothing wrong with maintaining this control while they’re still young.

Make sure they feel able to come to you with problems

You want your kids to be able to come to you and discuss things openly with you when they have a problem. If they are struggling with something they’ve seen online or someone they’ve interacted with online, the worst thing they can do is keep that to themselves because that’s when the situation becomes potentially even more dangerous. Always make it clear that you’re there to talk and that they won’t be in trouble if they need to talk to you about these things. Don’t let them bottle those issues up inside.

Know who they’re communicating with online

It should always be clear to you who your child is talking to online and why. You shouldn’t normally allow them to talk to people they don’t know in real life, especially if that person might be older than them. Try to stay on top of these things, as tough as it can be at times. Again, it’s about encouraging open dialogue and setting clear boundaries regarding what’s acceptable and what’s not. You should try to ensure they’re only talking to their school friends online if possible.

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Keep online time in check

Making sure that your child isn’t spending too much of their time online is usually a good idea, especially when they’re younger. You don’t want them to become too engrossed in what’s happening online because this can cause them to miss out on other things and that’s obviously not what you want to happen at all. So if you can, try to keep track of the time they spend online and try to put limits in place that they need to respect and to stick to at all times.

Be careful not to hand out blanket bans

One of the mistakes that parents often make when trying to keep their children safe online is simply banning them from using a smartphone or accessing the internet. It can be tempting at times to do that, especially if you’re concerned by their behaviour. Nonetheless, those kinds of tactics tend to only make situations worse, not better. Ideally, you want this to be a collaborative process with your child and not something that you force upon them. Because they feel like it’s being forced upon them harshly, that’s when they’ll simply rebel.

Create alternative activities for the family

It’s usually a good idea to create activities that you can do as a family. This is particularly important when they’re young, especially as you want to make sure that they have the chance to bond with you and their siblings. It also means they spend time doing real things and not all of their time on the internet and potentially doing things that aren’t too safe for them. It’s a way of making sure that they have an enjoyable and fulfilled life experience outside of what might be distracting them online. It’s certainly something to consider.

Try to lead by example

Finally, you should try to lead by example. If your child, from a young age, sees you constantly using your phone and being distracted by what’s happening online rather than being present in the moment, that’s a habit that they’re more than likely going to pick up for you. You’re your child’s main role model, and that’s a responsibility you can’t afford to overlook. If you don’t lead by example, you can’t be too surprised when they end up spending an unhealthy and potentially unsafe amount of time online.

It’s important to take all the steps you possibly can to ensure your children are kept safe at all times when they’re using the internet and interacting with technology. The threats out there are developing all the time, and from a parental point of view, it’s always best to stay on the safe side. The guide above should help you do that.

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