The internet is an amazing tool. We’ve all come to appreciate it more than ever in recent months since we’ve used it for work, school, and socializing – while maintaining a safe distance from … well – everything. Children use the internet to research school reports, communicate with teachers and other kids, and entertain themselves. However, online access has its share of risks, like exposure to inappropriate content, cyberbullying, and online predators. With all the ways predators seek to gain access to our children, parents may think the simplest solution would be to restrict their internet access altogether. However, a more practical solution would be to arm yourself and your child with all the tools needed for a safe internet experience.
Make use of online protection tools. There are many online tools that let you control your kids’ access to adult material and help protect them from internet predators. Many internet service providers (ISPs) provide parent-control options. You can also get software that helps block access to sites and restricts personal information from being sent online. Other programs can monitor and track online activity and deactivate apps on your child’s phone on a schedule set by parents.
Get involved in your kids’ online activities and teach them safe and responsible online behavior.
Give your kids these guidelines to follow for a safe online experience:
• Follow the family rules, and those set by the ISP.
• Never post or trade personal pictures.
• Never reveal personal information such as address, phone number, or school name or location.
• Use only a screen name and don’t share passwords (other than with parents).
• Never agree to get together in person with anyone met online without parent approval and/or supervision.
• Never respond to a threatening email, message, post, or text.
• Always tell a parent or other trusted adult about any communication or conversation that was scary or hurtful.
As for parents:
• Spend time online together to teach your kids appropriate online behavior.
• Keep the computer in a common area where you can watch and monitor its use, not in individual bedrooms. Monitor any time spent on smartphones or tablets.
• Bookmark kids’ favorite sites for easy access.
• Check your credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar account charges.
• Find out what, if any, online protection is offered by your child’s school, after-school center, friends’ homes, or any place where kids could use a computer without your supervision.
• Take your child seriously if he or she reports an uncomfortable online exchange.
• Talk to your kids. Keep an open line of communication and make sure they feel comfortable turning to you when they have problems online.
When it comes to teens, it gets a little trickier to monitor the time they spend online. Teens may carry a smartphone with them at all times. They want — and need — some privacy. This is healthy and normal, as they’re becoming more independent. Talk to your teen about the sites and apps they use and their online experiences. Remind them of the dangers of interacting with strangers online and remind them that people online aren’t always who they say they are. Advise them that they should never share passwords with anyone, even a boyfriend, girlfriend, or best friend.
Taking an active role in your kids’ internet activities helps ensure that they benefit from them without being exposed to the potential dangers.
• Dr. Tamarra Moss is a pediatrician committed to helping you raise happy and healthy kids. You can find her at Dr. Carlos Thomas & Pediatric Associates in Nassau, Lucayan Medical Center in Grand Bahama, or on Instagram @mykidsdoc242.