How to Ensure Internet Safety for Kids This School Year
Growing up alongside advanced technology is undoubtedly increasing the technical proficiencies of children and teenagers, but proficiency in technology is not the same thing as knowing how to use it safely. Young people who are unaware of the risks inherent in online interactions can easily fall victim to a myriad of malefactors. Parents, guardians, and adults who are invested in keeping their children's online activities as safe as possible must take an active interest and maintain awareness of such activities. Learn more about how to ensure internet child safety this school year and help foster a lifetime of awareness and good digital habits.
Speak to Your Kids About the Importance of Open Communication
Although this advice may come off as somewhat clichéd, the importance of open communication with your kids cannot be overstated, especially regarding safety on the internet. If your kid does not feel comfortable coming to you with questions and concerns over the content and individuals they encounter, they will be effectively left to their own devices. While you might not be as wildly enthusiastic over Minecraft, TikTok, or YouTube as your child is, they should feel comfortable that they will not be mocked or have their concerns dismissed. Without the ability to communicate freely with you, it is far more likely that your kids will encounter material or individuals they might have otherwise avoided.
Even with open communication, it is equally essential to be aware of the signs of your kids potentially being abused online by cybercriminals or cyberbullying from their contemporaries or strangers. There are several potential indicators that your kid is being abused online, including outbursts of anger, depression, anxiety, withdrawal, suddenly attempting to conceal their online activities, and sudden changes in how they use their online-capable devices.
Analyze Games, Apps, and Downloads for Appropriateness Before They Do
One of the best ways to foster good online security for your kids is to take an active interest in the games, apps, and other forms of online entertainment they consume. Kids who are inexperienced with best practices for internet safety face the two-pronged threat of malicious activities on otherwise "kid-friendly" apps and malware disguised as legitimate games and programs. Even well-loved games like the popular Roblox platform cannot fully protect your kids from seeing age-inappropriate content, experiencing cyberbullying from other users, or adult users with less than honorable intentions from attempting to make contact.
With all that in mind, there are several concerning features to look out for when analyzing games, apps, and downloads for appropriate content, including the ability to video chat, upload files, the level of user anonymity, direct messaging capability, and end-to-end encryption. Given that many predators and other cybercriminals rely on such features to contact potential victims, you should think twice about letting your kids use such applications without strict supervision, if at all.
Make a Clearly Defined Internet Safety Plan Backed Up by Technology
Before you allow your child to explore cyberspace of their own volition, you should have a discussion with them to establish clear rules and expectations for their web browsing and what to be wary of. By teaching your kid to recognize the signs of suspicious activity online and keeping a line of communication open with you, they will have a much better idea of how to avoid red flags in the first place. It is highly suggested that you set rules for using devices with internet connections, such as only being used in living rooms and other shared areas and setting time limits for using such devices. Parents should also be able to access and periodically review their children's social media accounts for inappropriate posts and profile changes.
It is also imperative to emphasize to your kids that "the internet never forgets." Those with the appropriate permissions can view every social media post they make, and every single image posted online is on the internet for good. Much like how you would teach your child not to talk to strangers or accept gifts from them in real life, doing so online should be equally discouraged. If they would not share a personal message, video, or other information with someone unknown on the street or freely share it with the public, it should not be shared with an anonymous online user. Similarly, kids should be encouraged to immediately inform a teacher, parent, guardian, or another trusted adult if they encounter anyone online asking them to perform illegal or illicit behavior.
Parents and guardians should also consider making use of the plethora of parental control options that exist not only on their devices but also within the apps and programs themselves, as well as kid-friendly internet browsers, to prevent accessing inappropriate content. From popular internet browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge to streaming services and video-sharing sites, you can customize parental control options as needed. Such choices include the ability to block or permit access to specific websites manually, monitor the amount of screen time, help track their physical location, view their browsing history and much more.
Ensuring that your kids can enjoy internet safety is a constant battle that requires your active participation, but the result is a child who is educated about the potential dangers and possesses excellent habits for maintaining online safety. While there is no better solution than being actively involved in your kids' online activities, the process can be made that much easier by using the resources at your disposal.
*The opinions reflected in this article are the sole opinions of the author and do not reflect any official positions or claims by Acer Inc.
About Dan VanPatten: Dan is a full-time technology writer with interests in gaming, gadgetry, and all things PC tech related. He writes about a variety of topics including technology news, product reviews, and software. His experience stems from years of experience writing & producing content for technology newsletters & publications.