Steps Parents Can Take to Keep Children and Teens Safe Online
- Warn Kids About Potential Dangers
- Set Rules About Computer and Smartphone Use
- Implement Parental Controls
- Put Computers in Living Areas
- Set Up Separate Accounts on Shared Devices
Parents with toddlers, school-age kids and teens need to take these five safeguards in order to keep their children safe online. Kids spend a lot of time online, and their immaturity puts them at risk for unwanted contact, scams and other dangers. Parents can step in and protect their children while also educating them about online safety with these five guidelines.
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1. Warn Kids About Potential Dangers
Parents should be frank about the potential dangers of the internet. Use language that is appropriate to the development of the child. This conversation should take place on a regular basis. As kids grow, what they do online will change. Children should be warned about things such as adults pretending to be kids, sharing their address online or sharing photos. Teens should be warned of sexting, bullying and identity theft. Parents need to stay on top of the latest scams and schemes that people run online.
2. Set Rules About Computer and Smartphone Use
Computers are not the only way that children get online. Many school-age kids and teenagers have smartphones, too. Parents should set rules about each type of device that kids use for accessing the internet. Some parents might have a rule about no phone use until chores and homework are completed. Other parents might only allow kids to use their phones on non-school nights. Also include rules about downloading apps, photos, and texting or instant messaging.
3. Implement Parental Controls
According to the United States Department of Homeland Security, parents should implement parental controls on all devices used by children and teenagers. The setup is a little different for each device, operating system, and browser. It only takes a few minutes to set up the controls. The device’s settings or tutorial help sections offer directions on how to do this. This works best when you have the device only used by the child or if you have separate accounts set up for each use. Identify the account as a child’s.
4. Put Computers in Living Areas
It’s easier to monitor a child’s online activities if computers are located in living areas such as the family room. Kids should not be using a computer in their bedrooms with the doors shut. It is possible for a computer to get hacked, and the hacker could use the device’s camera to monitor the child’s activity. The same is true for a smartphone. Phone use should also take place in common areas of the home.
5. Set Up Separate Accounts on Shared Devices
Computers and smartphones can be pricey. Not every family can afford to get each person their own new device every year or two. For shared devices, set up separate accounts with logins and passwords. This helps ensure that children cannot access or share an adult’s files. It also makes it easier to implement access restrictions. Parents can track which child accessed which websites by referring to the activity log for each user. This sets up a chain of responsibility.
Each of these five steps should be repeated regularly. Online threats change, and the activities that kids do online will change as they get older. Parents who take the time to safeguard their kids online will have more peace of mind.