Is there a parent alive who doesn’t envy today’s kids, who can Google anything from the first moon landing to Joan of Arc in milliseconds? The Internet is a godsend to kids and parents, offering everything from research without a trip to the library to a built-in babysitter while Mom and Dad fix dinner or care for younger siblings. But all that convenience comes with a price: sacrificing a bit of security and privacy.
Every parent worries about sexual predators who prey on children, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook other dangers associated with kids online. Cyber bullying, inappropriate content, hackers and identity thieves — the possibilities never seem to end. How can you take advantage of the usefulness of the Internet while still protecting your kids?
Teach Kids About Online Privacy
The first step is arming them with knowledge, just like you discuss the dangers of drugs or why it’s important not to ride bikes in the road. Of course, how much information you divulge depends on the age and maturity of the child. Determine how much detail they can handle, and explain how easy it is for other people to find out stuff about them from their emails, social media posts, and even seemingly innocent Internet searches. The more they know, the safer they’ll be.
Set Rules and Limits
Most of the kids who wind up in trouble are those who didn’t have boundaries when it came to Internet use. Smartphones, tablets, and Wi-Fi on every street corner don’t make it easy for parents to set limits on Internet use, but it’s important to establish rules about what is and isn’t allowed, how much time per day can be spent online, and guidelines about who your kids can communicate with via social media, etc. Be sure you know your kids’ user names and passwords, and regularly check all of their accounts for trouble.
Use Parental Controls
Most Internet service providers offer parental controls, and a number of software tools are available for additional peace of mind. Review the process for setting up those controls and make sure you’re comfortable with the settings you use to protect your kids. These might need to be adjusted from time to time, as the kids get more mature or in specific cases where they need to do expanded research for homework. Just remember to reset your controls after the assignment is complete.
Safeguard Your Own Search History
Parents need to be able to search for things like birthday presents or possible vacation plans in secrecy, or even research a topic that isn’t necessarily appropriate for the younger members of the household. In these cases, you can use a secure browsing tool to hide your tracks, so you can save those surprises for the holidays or find out who killed whom in the Game of Thrones without exposing the content to the little ones. Web searchers, SearchLock is the anonymous browsing tool that offers anonymous surfing that’s easy to set up. With this tool, you won’t have to worry about erasing your search history when you get done with the computer, and you will still maintain your own search privacy.
Monitor Their Activities
Nothing, however, is a substitute for hands-on parenting. Make sure you know what your kids are up to online. Some parents put a family computer in the living room and disallow Internet access in other rooms, so that kids are always in sight while online. Other parents install software to monitor kids’ activities, or simply make a habit of checking the browser history and peeking at kids’ social media accounts regularly. Whatever your method, be sure you’re in the know when it comes to your kids and their online security.
With the proper tools and careful monitoring, your kids can enjoy the great things the Internet has to offer, without you worrying about predators, hackers, bullies, and other online dangers.