As a society, we spend more time online than ever before – and while it may be viewed as unavoidable for adults (especially if you run your own business), many parents try to keep their children offline as much as possible. This is unsurprising when we consider the various online dangers or the fact that spending hours behind a computer screen doesn’t feel all that productive.
However, it’s also important to note that some online time can be incredibly beneficial for children. For example, it can:
- Encourage independent learning.
- Help them to bond & socialize with their peers and family members.
- Help them to de-stress and unwind.
- Help them to develop practical skills.
Nevertheless, as a parent, it’s crucial that you step in to ensure that your child’s online time is as safe as possible.
With that in mind, here are some top tips that you can use to keep your kids safe and happy online.
- Supervise their screen time. One of the easiest ways to ensure that your child stays safe online is to supervise their screen time, especially when they are relatively young. During this time, you can teach them the basics of online safety so that you have greater peace of mind when you allow them to browse independently.
- Monitor their online purchases carefully. If you share devices between the family, you should be mindful of any sites that have your financial details already stored within them. This is due to the fact that it’s all too easy for kids to spend money without realizing it (especially if they play games with in-app purchases). To make this easier, you should ensure that any apps with financial details stored are password protected. However, you should also make sure you know how to check purchase history on your device (find out how here: https://setapp.com/how-to/check-apple-purchase-history) to make sure they have not bought anything without your permission.
- Enable ‘children’s mode’ on your search engine. Some websites are simply not designed for children to use or see – but this does not mean they will not stumble upon them accidentally. As a result, you should ensure that you enable children’s mode on your children’s browser. This will automatically filter out any age-restricted or inappropriate content so that you know they’re safe when spending time online. For example, it can stop them from viewing any content which may be considered disturbing for children, such as scenes from the latest horror movies.
- Check out websites before letting them sign up. Every time you let your kid get online, they’ll probably return asking whether they can sign up to a new game or website, and more often than not, they’ll say that all of their friends are on it already. However, before letting them sign up, do a little research about the website itself to make sure it is kid-friendly. Usually, you will be able to find reviews for these sites after just a few minutes of googling.
- Don’t let them on social media too soon. According to a recent report, over 40% of teenagers feel as though they are addicted to their social media feeds – which is not always good news. While it’s often their primary mode of communication and engagement with the world around them, it can also be an unsafe space, especially due to the rise of cyberbullying. As a result, it’s vital that you take all necessary steps to stop your kids from developing a social media addiction. One way in which you can achieve this goal is by ensuring they do not sign up to these sites before they are ready. While most websites ask that users are 13 and above, there are many children on the apps.
- Give them a set amount of time to spend online. We’re all guilty of planning to use our phone for a few minutes before bed – only to find ourselves still mindless scrolling hours later. As a result, you cannot really expect your children to be able to regulate this behavior as they’ll want to spend as much time playing and having fun as possible. Therefore, you should set clear boundaries with your kids for the amount of time they are allowed to spend online. For example, you may allow them to use the computer for one hour on weekdays, and a little longer at weekends. Being strict with their limitations is a great way to diversify their interests elsewhere. For example, it could help you to get your kids outdoors.
- Talk about online dangers openly. In order to ensure that you keep your kids safe online, you need to provide them with insight into what to look out for. After all, if they are not aware of the dangers themselves, they may land themselves in trouble unexpectedly. While the nature of your conversation will vary depending on their age and maturity levels, you should talk about cyberbullying, predatory behavior, and illegal content.
- Lead by example. If you want to reduce the amount of screen-time your kids get, then it’s important that you also lead by example. After all, it’s a little hypocritical to tell them that they spend too much time online as you sit scrolling through your phone. Each day, set aside some time where nobody is allowed to use technology and instead focus on spending quality time together. This is a great way to help your children develop a healthy relationship with technology where they do not feel as though they have to use it every minute of every day.
- Use monitoring software. Another way in which you can keep your children safe online is by using online monitoring software, which enables you to see what websites or content your children have been accessing. If you come across anything inappropriate, you can immediately block future access to this site (or similar content). This also gives you the chance to let your children know what content they should not be viewing, which can increase their own awareness of safety issues.