When it comes to internet use, protecting our children is crucial.
While there are plenty of benefits to online activity and social media, such as educational content and the chance to keep in touch with faraway relatives, there is also a dark side. Given their need to learn and their vulnerable nature, the internet is just one of the numerous issues that affect our kids, but smart parenting can keep them protected.
However, it goes deeper than just prohibiting the websites they visit. It is about practicing smart habits that keep our families safe. Whether it be limiting our social media usage or providing the right type of guidance, there is plenty we can do to protect the ones we love.
Be Mindful of What You Share
As parents, we could not be prouder of our kids and their adventures and accomplishments, and we want to share it all with the world. However, you want to be careful of how much info you provide as criminals could use that information against you. Whether you are using Facebook, Instagram, or the bevy of other options, the best idea is to keep your social media posts fun but vague:
- Announce your kid’s first day of school, but don’t give the school’s name.
- Invite friends to a birthday party but don’t provide the full birth date.
- When you take a picture of your child at the babysitter’s house, turn off the geo-location service.
- Of course, you would never want to share secure information such as your child’s SSN, as it could be decades before you realize this information was stolen.
Although our children are absolutely adorable, we also want to be careful when posting pictures. As scary as it sounds, there have actually been cases of cybercriminals taking photos of random children and claiming the kids as their own as a form of digital kidnapping, while others use photos of children on disturbing websites. Again, when posting pictures, consider doing so without the geo-location service, especially when you are out and about, and update your privacy settings.
When it comes down to it, parents have to think about how much they really need to share. Are the rewards worth the risk? Do you even need social media at all? There have been plenty of stories about how Facebook shares our information and records our phone conversations, so consider removing Facebook altogether. Doing so is as easy as going to your settings and entering your password. If you want to eliminate a good portion of potential online threats, this is the way to go.
According to some studies, kids start using computers as early as age three. Unfortunately, even knowing this, you cannot watch them 24 hours a day, and you never know when they will sneak online to see what all the fuss is about. So, the key is to protect them when you are not around.
Take advantage of parental controls. You can apply restrictions to anything from what websites kids can visit to what they see on your cell phone. In addition to prohibiting what kids can view, parental controls allow parents to monitor their searches, track their location, and set screen limits, essentially turning off the device after a preselected amount of time. If you are going to allow children to use these devices, then you need to set the guidelines.
As parents, you also want to set the example and have conversations about the dangers of online activity. There are problems associated with chat rooms and computer games where they can talk to other kids, including cyberbullying and the release of personal information, so inform your children of these dangers and monitor them whenever possible to ensure they are following the guidelines.
Don’t Believe Everything You Read
Another issue associated with the internet is that there is a plethora of information available, but not all of it is true. The trick is understanding that you can’t believe everything you read and to verify any essential information with a second source, especially if that information will be associated with your kids. For example, before you follow any medical advice provided on mommy blogs, be sure to consult your pediatrician first.
The same goes for your children. According to a study in TIME magazine, almost 40% of children believe everything that they read online. Not only can taking every word at face value hamper their learning, but bad information can also endanger your family. There are many internet scams out there that can appeal to little kids, including those promising free stuff or online contests for cool toys that are only ploys for identity theft.
While the internet has much to offer as far as entertaining videos, there is also a lot of which to be cautious. While our children are anxious to learn about the devices that mommy and daddy use, it is vital that parents practice what they preach to provide a safe environment for the family.
Sam Bowman writes about families, wellness, and how the two merge. He enjoys getting to utilize the internet for community without actually having to leave his house. In his spare time he likes running, reading, and combining the two in a run to his local bookstore.
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