6 Ways to Keep Your Children Safe Online – Guest Post by Cassie Phillips

| October 10, 2016

This guest post was written by Cassie Phillips. Please see her bio at the end of this article for more information and links to her recommendations.

The internet is a fun and useful resource for children, providing entertainment and education. While they can use the web to play games, listen to music, interact with friends and do research for school, there are inherent dangers that present themselves when young kids become active online. We’ll take a look at some of the steps you can take to ensure your children remain safe while browsing the web.

Have “The Talk.”
As is the case with any sensitive topic, be sure to have a long talk with your children about staying safe online. It is important to let them know that browsing the internet can be fun and educational, but it can also be a dangerous place. Kids should understand there are some sites, apps and people on the web that can be harmful, and any rules you enforce are only there to protect them.

Location, Location, Location
Regardless of what type of device your child uses to get online, it is important they use it in a communal area. Ensure the home computer is in a high-traffic room like the den or living room. Even when they use tablets or smartphones to get online, make sure they do so in a less private environment so you can keep an eye on their activity from time to time.

Set Limits and Boundaries
Limits should be imposed when it comes to how much time your children spend online, and rules as to what is acceptable online behavior should be outlined. To ensure your family sticks to these rules, you can paste them in a common area where they are easy to see at all times. Some popular rules parents enforce include:

  • Don’t give out any personal information
  • Limit yourself to an hour online at a time
  • Tell Mom or Dad when you find something that makes you uncomfortable
  • Never agree to meet with an online friend without speaking to your parents first
  • Don’t post any photos of yourself without clearing it with your parents first
  • Don’t let anyone besides your parents know your passwords
  • Tell your parents before you install any software

To help your children follow these rules, there are plenty of tools available. Most mobile devices feature parental controls that can restrict certain apps, and there is a wide range of software available that can block your kids from accessing adult sites.

Get Involved
In the same way that parents should get to know the parks where their children play, it is just as important to become acquainted with their online playground. Visit the websites your kids frequent to ensure the content is appropriate and the site itself is safe for browsing.

This also applies to your kids’ online friends. Whenever they add a new contact on Facebook, be sure to check them out. Ensure that your child knows them in person and that you have also met them at some point. In fact, many tech experts in Silicon Valley don’t even let their children have social media accounts before they turn a certain age.

The same goes for installing applications and software. Be sure to research any programs your children want to download, and be on the lookout for malware and apps that could corrupt your devices and compromise your privacy.

Keep Your Data Secure
Just about every app you download will have numerous privacy settings you can adjust until you are comfortable with them. Sit down with your children and make sure they know which information they can provide to apps.

Also advise your children not to use social media logins to access websites; for example, many quiz sites ask you to log in using your Facebook or Twitter account. While this is the quickest option, it provides unauthorized access to your accounts for advertising and other purposes. If there is no other registration option, advise your kids to find another site with similar content.

It is also recommended you limit the amount of personal data that is accessible on the internet. You can remove certain social accounts from search engine results, and delete any personal information from social media profiles, including your address, school, phone number and email address. This goes a step further in ensuring you and your children cannot be tracked down on the internet.  

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are useful tools in helping to keep your data safe online. They connect you to a secure server with an encrypted connection that protects any of your personal information. By masking your IP address, a VPN ensures your location cannot be tracked, and the encryption ensures that data can’t be intercepted.

Look Out for Warning Signs
Protecting your kids online isn’t just about monitoring their usage; it’s also about monitoring their behavior. Be on the lookout for warning signs that may suggest that your child is getting into some trouble online. These include:

  • They become secretive. If they are quick to turn off the monitor or tab to another window when you’re around, they are certainly trying to hide that they are doing something in which they should not be engaged. This is when it is time to find out more about the types of sites they are browsing.
  • They seem nervous after receiving a text or email. If your child is receiving abusive messages, he or she is likely to feel uncomfortable after checking emails or chats. If you notice this becomes a trend, you should consider intervening.  
  • They become depressed. If your children are being bullied or harassed online, it will certainly affect them in their day-to-day life. Be the on the lookout for a change in their behavior. Becoming withdrawn, suffering from sleeplessness and seeing a slip in grades are all signs of depression in children. If they seem depressed, they may be the target of bullying online, and it may be time to step in and find out more about with whom they are interacting.  

The most important thing is to keep the lines of communication open. In addition to following the above advice, let your children know you’re always there to answer any questions they have about using the internet and that they can be open with you about their online activity.

Cassie is a technology blogger with a focus on cybersecurity. She aims to spread awareness about safety on the internet and recommends using a VPN to help protect your privacy online. Check out this VPN review from Secure Thoughts to find out which Virtual Private Network works best for you.

Category: All About Apps

About the Author ()

Carisa Kluver is the the editor of Digital-Storytime.com, an iPad children's book review site. She has a BA in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and an MSW from the University of Washington. Before starting this project, she was a school counselor, health educator and researcher in child & maternal health.