It can feel like there is a wide divide between you and your child’s internet habits. Even if you’re tech savvy, it can be hard to keep up with all the apps, ads and features. With every new change to the online landscape, new dangers loom.
If you’re a conscientious parent who wants to foster safe online habits for your kids, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll give you the tips and tricks you need to know so your child is safe on the internet.
1. Learn about parental controls on your devices
Regardless of your child’s age, it is definitely appropriate to set some limits using parental controls. Many sites have settings specifically for this purpose, too. One way to guarantee that you’ll have access to these settings is to only allow your kids to create accounts with you present.
You can also learn how to block websites and adjust settings so your family’s devices only show kid-friendly ads. You can block or report other users who feel unsafe or suspicious. While these techniques and others can be extremely effective at filtering out a large percentage of unsafe content, you should still supervise your children’s online usage.
2. Set some ground rules
Having clear, concise rules to follow when using devices is one of the best ways to safeguard your family’s internet habits. Tell kids never to share personal information (like a home address, phone number or school name) with anyone, but especially people they don’t know. Create a screen name that doesn’t use the child’s full name and only share passwords with parents. Tell kids to only talk to people they have met before and always tell an adult if someone said something that was scary or hurtful.
3. Supervise the right way
Hovering over your kids, especially older kids can feel patronizing, and even increase sneaky behavior. Going through a teenager’s web search history can be embarrassing and dismantle trust. What, then, are parents supposed to do to ensure that their kids are safe online?
One of the best kids internet safety tips is to supervise the right way, but it can feel like walking a tightrope. Try following these tips.
- Only allow devices in family areas, like the kitchen or the living room and not private bedrooms
- Highlight websites and apps that have quality content or are educational
- Spend time online together to model healthy habits
- Set up shortcuts to favorite, age-appropriate sites so your kids don’t stumble into something bad
4. Limit screen time
A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the average child between ages eight and 18 spends around seven and a half hours on screens daily, purely for entertainment purposes (non-school related). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours of screen time each day, and that’s not scrolling on social media or watching cartoons, but quality and educational content.
It’s simple math, the less time your child is spending behind a screen, the less likely he or she is to come across dangerous or inappropriate material. Building safe online habits with your kids means knowing when to turn off devices.
5. Start the conversation
It can be just as scary for your child as it is for you when he or she comes across something unsafe. You’ll want to build a safe haven for your kids for when the inevitable happens and they come across something their eyes aren’t yet ready for. Starting the conversation on safe habits is the best way to do so. This step works best when it’s a conversation, not a lecture, so remember to ask questions and spend at least half of the time listening.
6. Have the conversation again and again… and again
You don’t need to ask your child every day if they’ve encountered anything they have questions about online, but it also won’t do much good if you only ask once. Keep the conversation going. When your child is silent about internet usage or withdrawals when you ask about it, this could be a warning sign that your kid is in over his or her head.
When encouraging online safety isn’t enough
All you can do as a parent is your best. And even when you’ve done everything you can to encourage and enforce internet safety for your children, sometimes things slip through the cracks. When harmful or scary things happen online, it can take a big toll on you, your child and the rest of your family.
If internet safety has caused issues in your home, you don’t have to struggle alone. At High Focus Centers, you can get the mental health help you need for both you and your child. With programs designed specifically for middle schoolers and teens, your child will be able to process and heal from the internet’s wounds and rebuild healthy habits.