It's a scary statistic but according to the Center for Cyber Safety report done in 2016, 40% of children have chatted with a stranger online. Out of those children, 53% have given a stranger their phone number, 15% have tried to meet them, and 6% have given them their home address. With internet crimes being the fastest growing crimes in the U.S, and children being the fastest-growing group of victims, there's plenty to be concerned about. Here are some ways to help keep your kids safe online.
Talk to Your Kids
It may sound cliche, but it's true. Most parents are not talking to their children about internet safety. Children are getting access to the internet at a young age, so you need to start talking to them early. Talk to them about the dangers of viruses, malware, inappropriate websites, and sex offenders. Obviously, you'll want to use language that's appropriate for their age, and talk to them on an ongoing basis. The conversation will change and develop as their understanding of the situation, as well as their usage of the internet, grows with their age. Make sure to reinforce that it's never okay to give out personal information to strangers on the internet or to meet up in private places without a parent or guardian present.
Use Parental Controls
There are many ways to limit what your kids can see and do online. Even schools and educators have started using next-generation firewalls (NGFW) to protect students from inside their walls. At home, however, you can contact your ISP provider to see what types of parental controls they offer. Many apps, such as YouTube, have restrictions that can be turned on to filter out what could be considered inappropriate content. You can create a family on Google and assign restrictions for family members, monitor apps, and set up filters that limit what your child can see. There are even wifi-routers that have parental restrictions options.
Monitor Your Kid's Apps
While this can sound overbearing, it can be as simple as spending time with your kid online. Ask them to show you some of their favorite apps and games so you know what kind of content they are coming into contact with. If you see something questionable, that's a good time to open up a conversation about internet safety and what types of things are okay. Ask them if they have any questions about internet safety and have them rephrase what they've learned.
Set Rules and Boundaries
Aside from talking to your children about internet safety, make sure to set clear rules and boundaries and stick to them. It's probably not a good idea to just hand a kid a tablet and let them go to their bedroom for the rest of the day (secretive behavior can be a sign that something is amiss). Set internet usage time limits and stick to them. Monitor the type of content they are viewing and ask questions. Until they are old enough to need privacy, make sure that you know their password and let them know you'll be checking their history from time to time. Keep young children out of chat rooms and block apps if necessary to keep them safe. Also, make sure to keep lines of communication open. You want to give your kid the time and ability to feel safe asking questions.
Although it can be scary to think about the dangers of kids using the internet, it's something that definitely can't be ignored as technology is becoming an ever-more integral part of our lives. With proper dialogue and some preventative measures, however, it doesn't have to be scary for either you or your kiddo. More and more companies are realizing that parents want the ability to control what their kids might be seeing online. With this comes more and more options to help set up the proper controls to keep everyone in the family safe.