The internet is a rich source of information, opportunities and entertainment for our children. But sadly, it also poses health and safety risks for young users. From a safety perspective, your child could come across inappropriate content or strike up a relationship with a stranger. As well as that, they could become the subject of cyberbullying. In terms of their health, as is the case with TV, too much time spent in from of the screen can lead to obesity, sleeping and behavioural problems. The more time they spend in front of the screen, the less connected they will be with you and the rest of your family, which could lead to social problems. Many parents struggle with how to protect their children from these harms. Often the advice is too technical, or it’s just too darn difficult to coax your kids away from the screen. If you are a parent dealing with this difficult situation, here are my top tips on encouraging safe and healthy use of the internet.
Educate yourself and your kids on safe internet use
If you are reading this article, then you’ve already taken a step in the right direction. It’s important to know about the specific dangers that the world wide web poses to children and how you can prevent them from occurring. If you are well-educated on this subject, then you’ll find it much easier to offer guidance and advice to your children. Keep looking online for more information or consider attending a course.
Make sure you share your knowledge with your kids. They may be completely unaware of some of the potential dangers, for example sharing personal information online. When they know what to avoid and what to pay attention to, they will be able to come to you if ever they encounter a potentially threatening situation.
Be open about your internet usage with your children. Whenever you are searching the web or purchasing items online, involve your kids in this activity. By being open in this way, your children will be more likely to view the internet as a social, family activity, rather than something they do on their own. Also, if you are open with your children, it should encourage them to be open with you.
Lay the down the law
Implement some internet usage rules at home. For example, you may wish to introduce a list of websites that are off-limits, apply a time limit on internet usage or specify days and times when the internet can not be used. The rules will not only help keep them safe online, they can also be used to reduce the time they spend in front of the screen. So that your kids don’t feel like they are being targeted unfairly, have a discussion so that you can agree on the rules as a family. If possible, it may also help your cause if you apply the rules to the whole family, including you and your partner.
Find safe options
Instead of always banning particular websites or online activities and upsetting your kids, try to find safe alternatives. For example, if your son or daughter enjoys playing games online, look for websites like http://www.playtruckgames.net that offer a range of safe games. If your child enjoys chatting to their friends online, sites like Facebook or Skype offer more assurance over who they are talking to than chatrooms.
Use parental controls
This is where it gets a bit technical. But parental controls are one of the most effective ways to protect your kids online. Using these controls, you can restrict what content that is available to your children. Parental control settings can be applied to most electronic devices and are available through your home internet service provider. If you are unsure about how to apply parental control settings, your internet provider will be able to give you guidance. You may also want to use child-friendly search engines or install software to ensure safe use of the internet by your children. Remember that when they are using the internet away from home, the same level of protection may not apply. It is a good idea to talk with other parents to find out how they use parental control settings at home.
If your child is a member of a social network, such as Facebook or Twitter, then make sure that their privacy settings are at the appropriate level. Doing this will protect your child’s personal information and photos from being accessible on the web. Each social media channel has a different, and often complicated, process for amending privacy settings. Instructions will be provided on the site.
Encourage respectful use of the web
Behind the safety of the screen, both children and adults feel the confidence to say whatever they like. This is often how cyberbullying begins. It is important to teach your children not only about safety on the internet but also proper conduct. They must understand that treating someone with disrespect over the internet, does not make them immune from the repercussions.
Organise fun activities
Our kids spend a remarkable amount of time in front of the computer screen and using their smart devices. When your family rules stipulate these kind of activities are off-limits, it’s a good idea to think of alternatives you can suggest to prevent tears and tantrums. Take advantage of your kids’ interests. If they like being in the outdoors, go to the park or hop on your bikes. If they are into arts and crafts, roll up your sleeves and do some baking or painting.
Keeping your kids safe online is an issue that many parents worry about. However, it is possible to look after your kids’ health and safety by implementing a few safety measures. It will take some effort, and you may experience some teething problems along the way, but it will be worth it. Feel free to adapt the advice to suit your situation. I hope that they help you and your family out.