By: Stephanie Shabangu, Penfield Children’s Center
When it comes to internet safety, you can never be too careful. Dangers for children lurk in every corner of the internet and it is very easy for predators to contact children through gaming devices and social media. The internet is also home to an overwhelming amount of information, pictures and videos. While it is great that we can be so connected and learn just about anything online, it can also be dangerous territory for a youngster who accidently clicks on an inappropriate link or virus.
In order to ensure your child has positive and safe experiences on the internet, check out these tips:
- Set parental controls. Make sure to set restrictions in your search engine. For example, Google allows you to set up “SafeSearch filters” which block inappropriate content from appearing on your screen.
- Contact your internet service provider. Many providers offer free parental controls that allow you to set restrictions for your child, depending on age. This will block specific features such as chat and email and also restrict certain websites from loading.
- Set up your computer in a common area. Make sure you can easily see what your child is doing online and make yourself available if your child stumbles upon inappropriate content. Let your child know that she will not get into trouble if she sees something that you would not approve of and explain why you don’t want her look at or read about it. This will show her that you are there to support and protect her, not just restrict her freedom. A violent video might be intriguing to young viewers, but can leave a lasting, negative impression on young minds.
- Research kid-friendly sites before your child surfs the web. Limit your young child to specific sites that were developed for younger viewers. Kids can enjoy playing a variety of games, watching videos and exploring their creative side on a multitude of educational sites such as this one!
- Teach your child not to click on pop-ups or instant message requests. These can inadvertently download viruses to your computer or give predators access to interacting with your child. Installing virus protection and making sure your operating system is up-to-date can also help prevent viruses from taking over your computer.
In addition to these tips, it’s also important to keep your child safe from cyberbullying. In fact, 34% of students have reported being subjected to cyberbullying while online. Cyberbullying can lead to low self-esteem, feelings of fear, trouble sleeping and other psychological problems. This type of bullying most often occurs through social media and with the increase of cell phone use among children and teens, parents who do not restrict phone use or closely monitor social media accounts often lose track of what is being written and posted.
Make sure to also talk with your children about not sharing personal information online. Addresses and phone numbers should be kept confidential. Explain to children why this is dangerous and that it should never be shared with strangers or “friends” they meet on the internet.
Thinking about internet security before your child goes online is key to maintaining safety while your little one surfs the web. Also, showing interest in what your child is looking at will help spark conversations and learning, and allow you to monitor what she’s viewing.
What steps have you taken to keep your child safe on the internet?