Help kids stay safe online
Published 5:53 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2022
By Nathan Rice
It may sound strange for those of us who grew up without the Internet, but today’s kids don’t know a world that isn’t connected. The Internet has always been a part of their lives. Unfortunately, not all of them realize some of the dangers involved with being online. In this new world, parents must do what they can to keep their children safe in the real world and in the digital one.
The first step to take is to realize how many items are connected to the internet. Nearly all gaming systems, tablets, phones, and computers are connected to the Internet. We’re long past the days of the family desktop being the only thing connected to cyberspace!
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Next, ensure that you talk with your children about the dangers that come from being online and help them understand what they can and cannot do online. This conversation will vary based on age and maturity, but this conversation must be held. The conversation should be ongoing, as well, and change as children age.
Internet-connected items should be kept in an area that is viewable by everyone. Placing these devices in a shared living space ensures that you will see and hear what is happening, even if you are only catching glimpses. This includes game systems. Game systems can be connected to the internet, and many games allow unmonitored and uncensored audio, video and chat features.
Many children have internet-connected devices in an area of their rooms where parents cannot see and wear headphones when they speak to others. This allows anyone in the world to connect with your children, giving them an unseen space where people you do not know can share anything with them.
It’s also wise to install programs that help keep children safe on internet devices. Begin by researching the various programs for household computers and installing a program that fits your needs. At the very least, the software chosen should block inappropriate websites and not allow the program to be turned off without a password. Covenant Eyes is one of many programs available that can help in this area.
Children who are allowed to have mobile phones or internet-connected tablets should have a mobile app installed that blocks lewd websites, monitors chats and blocks the download of questionable apps. While the Bark Mobile App is the most popular, other options are available.
Lastly, consider blocking the internet to your children’s devices when they should not be accessing them. Most internet service providers have parental controls that allow you to set specific times that the internet will not be available on certain devices.
I’m not paranoid about children being connected online. Being connected can be an excellent thing for children and adults alike. There is a real danger that exists online, but danger exists everywhere. We shouldn’t run away from the internet or ban our children from enjoying the good things that it can bring, but we should take steps to protect them as they enter the wild, wild west of the world wide web.
Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.