Internet security and safety has been a societal concern for many years already since we started surfing the web en masse back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. If you listen to any cyber security consulting firm in Australia, they’ll remind you that for that entire time, one of the most vulnerable groups in question has been our children.
In 2022, kids now have more online access than ever before, and even more worrying for parents is that kids increasingly need Internet access to function within their schools and social groups. With this reality coming upon us, we have to be sure that all of us are fully aware of the best practices when it comes to keeping kids safe online.
1. Talk to Your Kids About Their Online Activities
Most problems that occur with kids online are due to the fact that parents are simply ignorant as to what their kids are doing online at any time of the day. They don’t know who they are talking to, what websites they are visiting, what kind of content they are viewing on their favourite social media platforms, and so on. When you don’t know about the problems, or even the initial red flags that indicate a problem, what can you really do about it?
The easiest solution, then, is to talk as openly as possible with your kids about what they do and see online. They may not be entirely forthcoming at first, but you could try leading by example, showing that it’s okay to open up on the topic. As it becomes more normal, you’ll get more insight into what they’re doing, and hopefully be able to spot potential red flags.
2. Have Your Kids Use Their Screens Where You Can See Them
There once was a time when screens meant large, static, desktop computer screens that were very hard indeed for kids to hide. Now, however, you’re contending with kids using their smartphones wherever they are, potentially looking at harmful or otherwise inappropriate content while locked in their bedroom or in the bathroom, for instance.
The basic solution here is to insist that kids have their daily screen time in places where you can have some ability to supervise what’s going on, such as in the living room or kitchen.
3. Get to Understand Filters and Parental Controls
Another problem parents have is that they don’t realise what kinds of parental controls and safeguards already exist both on the devices their kids are using, and on the platforms kids are surfing online. Concerned parents should make it a condition of ownership and access to devices and platforms that these controls be active, and if the kids don’t agree, then they get zero screen time.
These controls can filter out harmful and inappropriate content such as graphic violence, sexual content, and more. They can also inform you if and when kids are trying to get around or break these rules.
4. Teach Them About Share Awareness and Privacy Settings
Arguably the most important thing you can do to help keep your kids safe is to treat Internet use as you would with your kids crossing the street. It’s a potentially dangerous thing to do that can be made safer with some basic and common-sense knowledge. Teaching young kids about the importance of privacy, anonymity, and how content one posts today can come back to haunt them years down the line, is fast becoming a valuable education for parents to pass on to kids.
Other valuable lessons include not sharing personal data with strangers, not publicly sharing your location all the time, moderating language and tone so as not to come across as offensive, and so on.