Today we live in an era where internet plays a significant part in many of our lives and it has of course made our lives easier in various ways. Well, it seems like now we tend to depend on it more than ever before – for learning, reading, shopping, entertainment, connecting with friends and family and so on…It’s so likely that many children have started using the web a lot more, post the outbreak of covid-19 – schooling, chatting with friends and family, extracurricular lessons have all become online these days in many places. Whilst the internet can be boon in many instances, it has its pitfalls too. Hence its highly essential to keep a track of their online activities, educate them about the risks and equip them so that they can utilize the positives of the internet while minimising any potential harm.
Are we really ensuring online safety for our kids when they are online? Its high time that we think about as to whether we’ve taken all the appropriate steps to keep them safe online. So what could be done ? How could we be digitally resilient in this age of digital revolution? Here are a few tips that will help safeguard kids while online and ensure that their online experiences are safe and positive.
- EDUCATE AND COMMUNICATE
It’s absolutely essential to teach kids how to use the internet safely even when they are as young as five. Good learning and safety habits start very young. As soon as a child start accessing the internet, its important to talk to them about online safety tips and its significance. Some basic guidelines to share with kids for their safe online access are :
- To not reveal personal information related to family, friends or themselves like full names, addresses, telephone numbers, name or location of schools etc without the permission of parents/carers. Young kids should understand that internet is a real community of people around the globe connected by computers and therefore they are ought to treat people that they do not know on the internet as strangers that they meet in a street.
- To not post personal pictures online without the consent of their parents/carers
- To not share passwords with anyone except their parents/carers
- To never respond to any emails, messages, posts, texts or any pop-ups which they are’nt sure of.
- To always check with parents and get permission before downloading or installing anything.
- To always tell a parent/carer or trusted adult about anything unusual, worrying or scary. We should help kids identify adults who could help.
- To always be mindful of their actions
Its a good idea to discuss online safety regularly with kids so that they are always well equipped and thoughtful of their actions, thus making their online experience stay positive while reaping the maximum benefits that the web has to offer. Also, let them design their very own colourful internet safety poster and add it to their art wall or bedroom/studyroom or wherever!
2. OPEN CONVERSATION AND SUPPORT
It seems to be the need of the hour to talk to our children about the safe use of computers, the risks involved and what could be done to promote a positive online experience. We should clearly explain and make them aware of the do’s and dont’s of using the internet and also help them understand why online safety is important. They should be taught that with the freedom to explore the internet comes safety and responsibility too.
An open conversation with the child about their favourite websites or apps will help us keep track of their online activities, in case we don’t always stay beside them( remember, even if we cant stay beside them we should always try to be in close proximity). An open talk could help kids access and utilize the brilliant internet resources while being safe online. We should also let them know that we would never blame them incase if anything go wrong and that we would always be there to support and sort out things. Building a sense of trust and being non-judgemental would give them the instinct to directly approach us when in need without any other second thought which is why they should fel listened and supported.. Well, What better way to resolve a problem than effective communication? Always learn together about new technologies and enjoy! Reflect together about new technologies, the benefits, dangers and potential.
3. SET BOUNDARIES AND SUPERVISE CHILDREN WHILE ONLINE
Its always better to keep the devices used by kids in communal areas of the house where a parent or trusted adult is able to keep an eye on their activity. Always try to ensure that a parent or a responsible is around them while surfing the web. It is not safe for very young kids to access the internet unsupervised in individual spaces such as alone in a bedroom or bathroom. Remember to set mobile devices to forget the wifi access code so that they cant get online without a parent/carer.
Its a good idea to agree upon family guidelines and rules about the use of internet pertaining to individual needs and make sure everyone respect and adhere to it.
Practical Principles :
Talk with, NOT at our children.
Agree family guidelines and rules.
Discuss about online safety and its importance regularly.
4. USE PARENTAL CONTROLS
Making devices child-friendly through online protection tools allow us to control and block inappropriate content and help protect them from internet predators. Many internet service providers provide parent control options and making use of these controls available would ensure that the web is a safer place for the kids. Your internet provider may offer a free filter that may be used to control the content that you and your family see. You’ll need to manually set-up any device connected to your home broadband. Try and speak to your internet Provider and activate the Filter rightaway, if you have’nt.
Controls could be used to block in-app purchases, manage location settings and block inappropriate contents from being accessed. However, a good rule of thumb is not to allow internet use without adequate adult supervision even with parental controls. Remember that parental controls should only be part of a wider approach to keep them safe online and should not replace open talk, discussion and parental involvement.
5. Use child-friendly content providers
With pool of features available today, its easy to enable our devices to be more child-friendly. There are also a lot of child-friendly content providers out there these days that provides children a safe place to explore their curiosity online. Using these would help make children’s internet browsing experience safe n fun. Some child-friendly search engines to be considered include Swiggle, safe search UK, Youtube Kids, Cbeebies, ABC Kids etc.
Taking all the necessary steps, having a positive role in kids’ internet activities and guiding them would inturn help ensure that that they benefit from these, without being exposed to any potential harm.