How to Build a Safe Online Environment for Children
The internet has allowed children and adults alike to learn amidst distance even before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. While it serves as a space for education and entertainment, it can still pose dangers especially for kids if there are no ample precautionary measures in place. Therefore, it has become a serious concern for parents nowadays to make sure that their children could roam in a safe digital environment through ways such as cybersecurity and open communication. It is important that children themselves also understand the risks when using the internet and eventually know how to be safe online.
There are many possible dangers that kids can encounter online which include age-inappropriate content, undesirable people (i.e., cyberbullies, predators), and malicious programs. These only underscore the gravity of building a safe online environment that could be achieved by following the tips below.
Establish ground rules on internet use
Before letting children get ahold of any devices that could connect to the internet, you should have comprehensively explained to them what they should only be doing. It would be helpful to describe the sites they cannot visit when you’re having an age-appropriate discussion with them. If they are too young, you can opt to simply bookmark the sites they frequently visit. You can also watch with them some internet safety videos on Youtube which could be a good conversation starter.
Make sure you have a visible list of the rules they can easily see so they will be reminded even when you’re not around. Setting parental controls is advisable as well so that the search results would be filtered. Find ways to balance their online and offline activities, remind them to treat others online with the same respect they give in person, and tell them to let you know immediately if they see something that upsets them or they don’t comprehend. Coming up with these ground rules is a good first step to encourage digital literacy for kids.
Practice open communication
Your kids should always be comfortable discussing with you the things that they still do not understand or what made them uncomfortable. Thoroughly talk through the dangers they can face online so they’ll know when to alarm you. Being able to establish a solid relationship with them to the point where they’ll think of you right away when they sensed something could be wrong is probably the best preventive measure to keep them safe.
Let them know that your communication channels are always open and that they shouldn’t worry in case they get to make a mistake. Respond empathetically and act immediately. Remember that your children should not ever be afraid to talk to you about sensitive topics. Initiate discussions on their online activities, be upfront that you’re monitoring their online use and explain why, and assure them that they will be having more privacy as they get older. Stress that you most definitely trust them and that you’re only looking out for them.
Trust your children
In relation to the abovementioned tip, it’s indeed tricky to find the right way of monitoring and giving them more freedom. After all, kids should have room for growth which should be coming from their own choices. They might only end up being rebellious if they realize that their content access is way too controlled. Thus, it should be your end goal to teach them how to self-regulate and counteract poor security measures that could put them in danger.
Support their choices especially when they’re exploring at a developmentally appropriate age. This would empower them to make decisions for themselves and strengthen their critical thinking. While worrying about them cannot be set aside, just keep in mind that rules go hand in hand with respect.
Prevent undesirable exposure
Here come the more technical to-dos such as checking privacy policies, teaching your kids how to make their online profiles, and ideally placing your home computer in a central location among other things. Though, more than anything, it should be clear to them that they should not share personal information online.
The risk of unwanted contact also remains in the form of online grooming and cyberbullying so this is where your good relationship with them comes in. Should they face sketchy individuals, they will think of sharing their experience with you.
The world is becoming more cybercentric each day so it’s inevitable that children will become digital natives, needing proper guidance and introduction to the internet. Starting with the said tips could help you keep them safe online. Urge them to follow the rules, talk to you, and self-regulate once they are armed with enough understanding.
Beware not to make the digital space seem like a scary place but simply somewhere they can learn and enjoy from. To allow them to continue experiencing the good it can offer, they should then be mindful of the risks by being there. Be patient and creative when explaining all these, and you’re sure to have set sufficient measures to provide them with a safe online experience.