Internet can be the most useful thing ever discovered on Earth. With its many benefits come lots of problems too. These need to be addressed effectively before you start allowing your children internet devices independently.
Cyber safety is a genuine concern. Here are some general tips. You may already be following these. If you are not, try incorporating these in your household. The whole point is to protect your children from cyber-related crimes (cyber rape, cyber fraud, etc.)
- Trust: The first and most important thing is to befriend your child so that they trust you whenever they are faced with an uncomfortable situation in life. If this is in place, then you are already there in achieving the ultimate goal! The importance of this point cannot be overemphasized.
- Have a home/family agreement. Set these up from the start that is the early years onwards. Let kids know that their activity will be monitored and tell them why. Explain to them the importance of not divulging their private information to strangers. For older children, these could include the use of devices (desktop, tablets, laptops) in public places of the house, not to use headphones (so that parents can monitor who they are talking to, what they are talking about, is their language appropriate, who is talking to them? Is it a stranger’s voice, or a friends. Is anyone bullying them? etc.) If these are not set in place early on, then older kids have a difficult time accepting these. So, it is important to create these habits from the start. Rule-setting is crucial when it comes to the internet for your children’s protection.
- YouTube is the most watched channel for kids. From Cocomelon for babies and toddlers, to a variety of stuff out there for little children, YouTube raises some serious flags, but don’t worry these can be managed. It should be wise to create a home profile or kids’ profile on YouTube. This way content that you (adults) are watching doesn’t pop up on your kids’ profile on auto watch. Secondly, this way you could turn off auto-play in the YouTube settings for your children (even if you want to keep them there on your own). We must admit that this auto play feature is quite helpful, but for kids it may not be the best thing, especially if you want to control the next video they are watching. Or if you are using the same profile with them. YouTube kids is another option, but somehow it never worked for me. Some kid-friendly content was not there, and so to have the full experience we eventually had to shift to youtube.com for kids, with auto play off and monitored.
- Whenever kids install an app or social media profile, check the settings. You can do it with your children, so they know how to manage these settings and be aware of their existence as well. Check your kids’ installed apps and browser history regularly! And also, the content on what is being recommended to them. Although it may be emphasized that trust between you and your child is important. Nevertheless, this is an option as well if you and your kids have an agreement from the start on the rules and regulations of using the internet.
As long as you and your kids are on the same page, there are some agreed upon expectations that they are fulfilling, then your goal is achieved and your family is safe.
Try to create a healthy balance between creating healthy boundaries, and not snooping around too much. Give them their space too. Here trust comes in! In the end, whatever happens make sure your child feels and knows that you are their safe space and they can come to you for support, no matter what!