The following post is from Lauren Rothlisberger of Get Me Geeky:
As my kids are get older they spend more time on the computer, and I encourage them to explore their interests through books, but also through online research.
Unfortunately, this is more complex than it seems due to the nature of the web. It is a forever long rabbit hole of topics. This isn’t news to anyone, but I think many of us are overwhelmed with the task of internet safety and feel defeated before we even start. We are the pioneer parents of this topic. While it is tempting to ban all things technology in name of the protection of our children, that is akin to saying no one will leave the house for fear they may get hurt. We must educate our children and monitor them so they can continue to make good choices.
I am not going to go into all the “how-tos” of internet safety because there are just so many. Instead, I will point you to many good resources as also highlighted in this great post to read. The more you know, the more you can understand how to both monitor your kids and arm them with the tools to know when something isn’t right.
Obviously the issues and topics change as children get older. Especially with tweens and teens you won’t always be there to help them make good decisions. Be sure you spend the time talking with them about the dangers sooner rather than later.
Below are some of the biggest issues with internet safety. Each topic offers other links to continue your education.
While there are many parental control packages you can purchase you can start by using Google’s Safe Search mode. You can even lock it in this mode. Other parental control softwares will let you blacklist certain sites you don’t want your kids on, or whitelist they only ones they can go on. This is helpful, but can get annoying. It is hard to know every site you might want your kids to access, and conversely, there is no way to know all the bad places they could go.
Limit your computer to just one browser and check the history frequently. That is typically found in the browser’s settings. Do not allow your kids to dump the history and be sure they are not using a different browser.
Macs do have a built in parental control system. It can be a little clunky, but is an option.
Another great privacy and internet safety resource is Common Sense Media.
I gave YouTube it’s own category because it is one of the most popular sites on the web. I know when my kids are interested in exploring or researching a topic it is one of their first landing spots. YouTube is amazing, no doubt, but the problem can become how quickly kids can get off track. That sidebar of other videos to watch can quickly find you looking at something completely different.
Luckily YouTube also has a Safe Mode. While not perfect it, uses flagging, age-restrictions, and other tips to restrict videos. You can learn about all their resources in the Safety Center.
Social media has changed our world forever. I am very thankful for this way to keep up with my family and friends far and wide, but wow, what a can of worms. Especially through the teenage years. As kids, our biggest fear was someone sharing a note you wrote with another person. Now someone can share anything about you with the entire school.
Common Sense Media has a great information on what is age appropriate for your kids and social media. Digital citizenship (more below) is also crucial to keeping your teen out of a social media mess.
One fear is gossiping and bullying, but another threat is people who prey on children through the web. Be sure to give your kids guidelines on who it is appropriate to communicate with, and what it is appropriate to share. Check out Stay Safe Online for more on that.
I know a lot of parents that have boldly stated, “My kid isn’t getting a cell phone!” The reality, though, is that in this day and age most kids have phones so they can communicate with you when they need to. That is a big responsibility for an immature mind. We need to keep a careful watch on where they are browsing, what apps they are using, and just the amount of time they spend on it. It is typically better to teach your kids how to appropriately use certain apps and what pitfalls they should be careful of, instead of banning them all together.
For tips on how to keep up with the latest apps check out this article on Common Sense Media.
Here is a good list of tips for teens and mobile phones.
Digital citizenship is your quality of response as a member of a digital community. In the digital age we have witnessed people who hide behind their computer as a way to act completely out of line. This can be anything from saying something inappropriately to doing something downright illegal. People who are not good digital citizens do not treat the other members of the community like people.
I think many of the issues that we run into above would be resolved with good digital citizenship. If you need help talking to your kids about that, check out this post for Edutopia.
From everything I have read it seems that one of the most important parts of internet safety is having an open conversation with your kids. Give them a code word or phrase they can use if they find something they’re too embarrassed to talk about, or were exposed to a situation at someone else’s home. Continue to talk to them about the risks as they get older.
What practices do you have in place in your home to address internet safety?
|Lauren Rothlisberger blogs and consults over at Get Me Geeky. As a military wife and mom of three girls five years old and under, she loves focusing on technology and productivity and finding new ways to simplify her life. She recently started putting together MacMinis, which are easy to follow videos for Mac users, and also wrote an ebook, Evernote for Moms.|