No one is immune to the dangers of the internet. However, kids can be especially vulnerable because, at such a young age, they may not realize that certain things they do online are unsafe. So, it’s our job as parents to protect them. Here are five tips you need to consider for the online safety of your kids.
1. Take advantage of web filtering software
Web filtering software is software designed to control what the user of the device can access over the internet, and it is very effective at preventing your kids from seeing inappropriate content.
You have a ton of software options to choose from: Net Nanny is one of the most popular ones, but there’s also McAfee Family Protection, and SpyAgent. You’ll have to pay for these programs, but it’s a small price to pay for the safety of your children.
2. Set YouTube to restricted mode
Kids love to watch videos on YouTube, but you don’t necessarily need to block YouTube entirely. What you can do is make YouTube safer for them by enabling the channel’s built-in Restricted Mode, which hides videos with adult content. Here’s how to do it:
- Go to YouTube and log in to your account.
- Click on your account icon.
- Click on “Restricted Mode: Off” at the bottom of the drop-down menu that appears.
- Click on the slider beside “ACTIVATE RESTRICTED MODE”.
Keep in mind, though, that Restricted Mode only works at the browser and device level. This means that you’ll have to turn it on again if your kid switches browsers or uses another computer, smartphone, or tablet.
You should also download the YouTube Kids app for all of their devices. This is filtered content, much like above, and while there have been reports of some inappropriate content making it through, generally, you can feel more comfortable that the content they’re watching is age appropriate.
3. Teach your children basic online security measures
You can’t stop your kids from going on the internet, so you might as well teach them how to navigate it properly. It is their safety at stake, after all, and it is impossible for you to be with them 24/7.
Teach your kids to never reveal their names (first name, last name, nickname) or the names of their siblings to anyone online, especially in chat rooms. Tell them not to post where they go to school, where you live, what parks they frequent to play with their friends, and any other form of personal information. Also, tell them not to download any programs or click on any random links without asking for your help.
4. Monitor your kid’s online activity on a daily basis
Make it a point to stand behind your child from time to time as they browse the internet. This way, you’ll be able to quickly find out if there are any problems with cyberbullying or stalking. They may not like it, and they may think that you are encroaching on their privacy, but it’s absolutely necessary for their protection. By being aware of what they’re doing and who they’re talking to, you can help keep them safe. And don’t be afraid to limit how they interact with others online, like restricting chat functions in a game like Roblox only to people they are friends with (and instruct them only to accept new friend requests from people they know in real life).
More than just watch, however, try engaging with them. Be interested, ask them about what they’re doing online, what games they’re playing, who their favorite YouTubers are, etc. Having an open dialogue is key; you want your child to feel comfortable talking to you. If someone sent something inappropriate via a chat forum within the game they’re playing, for example, they should feel comfortable coming to you for advice. By being active and approachable, rather than authoritarian and threatening, you’ll have a much better environment to keep your kids safe.
5. Download a VPN
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, won’t stop someone from talking to your child via an online forum. But it will hide their internet activities by making them anonymous and invisible to hackers. If your child often connects to public WiFi, like at a library or at school, a VPN can secure that network to ensure the data on their device is safe.
As with everything, it’s a combination of all these tips that will help keep your children safe. Above all, talk to your child, be involved, and help guide them through the crazy—and sometimes scary—online world we call the internet.