My best friend is just getting around to learning how to text – yes text! Although it’s fun to give her a bit of grief over her “challenges” with technology, her lack of interest just frightens me!
You see – she has 2 kids. 2 kids who already know how to work their dad’s iPhone, who easily shift between a Wii and their iPad and who will far surpass her in the technology department. In all fairness, most kids will do this, but in her case it will likely happen before they are 8.
I consider myself pretty savvy – certainly I text, I’m a strong social media user for both work and personally, I’m just about to launch a new app…you get the picture.
And while I genuinely love all things tech – I mostly stay on top of things because of my kids (as much as a 40 year old mother can). It absolutely petrifies me that some day very soon, they are going to know more than me. And while I know that I will never be quite as cool as my kids, I can stay focused – for their sake. Because as much as the internet gives us that is positive, it also has its negatives.
So here are some steps that parents can take to keep their kids safer online:
Decide what types of sites are allowed and prohibited. Parents should read the sites their kids are interested in before allowing regular access. If the site’s privacy statement is not acceptable, parents should find a similar site with better provisions.
Block sites with inappropriate content. It is important for parents to learn what types of sites have inappropriate content. Newer platforms of Windows all have intuitive tools for this purpose. If children use xBox games or chatting features online, it is important to utilize all safety features for these options.
Set download limits. If children are allowed to freely download what they want, it can be hard to track files. Parents should require kids to ask permission before downloading anything. Shared music files, games and other items often contain spyware that could compromise the online safety of the entire family, so this should be a strict rule.
Set up different user accounts. By doing this, parents can use the administrator’s account and monitor other users’ activities. This will help children avoid the temptation of breaking rules, and it will help parents know when rules have been broken. It is also possible to set specific controls and safety settings with an administrator’s account.
Adjust Internet browser privacy levels. These can be customized on almost every type of browser. Some levels are preset and block certain types of sites. Parents can also manually enter specific sites they wish to block. For example, a parent who does not want children to access social media sites could block these specifically.
View activity logs regularly. To stay current with kids’ online activities, parents should view history logs frequently. Some kids may be savvy enough to delete their history, which is why parental controls used on an administrator’s account are valuable. These will show their tracks whether they erased them or not.
Use spyware detection programs regularly. Parents should invest in a good spyware detection and removal program. It should be run regularly to find and eradicate any spyware programs. These can sit on a computer undetected for long periods of time and are like virtual funnels that leak information to third parties. These parties may be hackers looking to steal money from bank accounts or child predators looking for addresses and online identities of children. For example, a predator could use stolen information to find a child’s online social media profile. Predators often make fake accounts to establish contact with children this way, so parents should be aware of this.
Talk to kids about online strangers. While this suggestion may seem ineffective to some parents who have rebellious teens, it is still important to do. If kids hear this enough, they will at least remember what they heard. Explain how predators use the Internet to exploit kids. Providing some real-life examples of cases can help kids understand just how serious the issue really is.
So my best friend and my boys might roll their eyes at me and my time spent online, but I’m going to keep on keeping on. I may even go set all her parental controls for her!