The internet is littered with inappropriate content, violence, false information, bullies, cybercriminals, child predators, and kidnappers. To young minds, these threats may not be readily apparent. That’s why parents have to be vigilant on their behalf.
The best internet service providers (ISPs) not only provide reliable and fast internet but also offer user-friendly and safety features to guard your children when they go online. We’ve compiled the tips below to help you protect your kids so that they can safely explore the great resources the web has to offer.
1. Teach Your Kids Basic Online Safety
Parents can learn and teach internet safety techniques to their children. Familiarize yourself with the devices they’re using, the websites they’re signing up to, and the chat rooms where they’re talking to their friends to be able to guide them or correct them when necessary. You should also ask them about their internet access when they’re outside the home to ensure they’re following the safe-browsing lessons and rules you’ve given them.
Make your children aware that the internet saves information for many years, and they should be careful what they post, or it may come back to haunt them. There are many cautionary tales on the internet of young people who lost opportunities—college admission and jobs—because of something they shared online back when it didn’t matter.
2. Keep Personal Information Safe
Sharing personal information online should always be done carefully, securely, and only when necessary. Leaked personal details can lead to identity theft or data loss. Information shared online may even enable bad actors to plan a break-in.
To keep your children safe, provide guidelines for what they should not divulge online. Tell them not to mention family names or nicknames, where they go to school, addresses, their phone number, or other confidential details in chats or on social networks. This could also include videos that include identifying information, such as recognizable locations near your home. Explain that cybercriminals may use this kind of information online to guess passwords, hack into your home network, or find your home.
It’s also important to keep your information private by making sure your kids know how to set a strong password and never to share their password with someone online.
3. Warn Kids About Strangers Online
Some children may feel more comfortable socializing online than in person. This leaves them susceptible to seeking acceptance and friendship from strangers on the internet. Unfortunately, these strangers may be dangerous people trying to groom them or lure them somewhere to kidnap them. The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) advises that you should tell kids they can’t arrange to meet anyone they’ve talked to online without your knowledge and supervision.
Help them spot various warning signs, for example, if the adult is sending them money and gifts or asking for pictures while claiming to work for a modeling agency. Since children influence each other, speak to your kids about who their friends are talking to online to learn if a stranger is lurking in the background. If you find out anything unsettling, contact the parents to keep your children safe.
4. Use Parental Controls from your ISP
There’s a lot to consider when choosing the right ISP for your needs. One feature that should be at the top of your list is parental controls. Many ISPs offer controls that enable you to monitor online activity, filter indecent images and videos, and set rules or restrictions for when kids can go online or use instant messaging apps. Take advantage of these tools if your provider offers them.
AT&T, for example, offers Smart Home Manager parental controls, which enable you to create profiles and determine the profile that can access the internet and for how long. Verizon’s parental control feature provides ratings and age preference settings to block content and specific channels. For additional safety, you can set up a parental control PIN so no one can change the settings to gain access to the prohibited content.
Verizon also offers the Smart Family service for Android and iOS smartphones and Android tablets. It filters content, blocks contacts, and limits calls and texts. It can also monitor web activity, pause internet access, track your child’s location, and prevent them from purchasing inappropriate content or products online.
5. Review Content and Games Before Your Kids Access Them
Young kids can often inadvertently access online games or watch TV shows and videos with content inappropriate for their age. While you can’t pre-screen everything your child sees, it’s vital to take apps for a test drive and briefly review games before letting your kids access them.
You can help ensure content is suitable for your kids’ ages by finding TV shows and channels specifically for children. Plus, many ISPs offer settings for age and download restrictions that will block some content, so your kids won’t be able to access it without your permission.
6. Limit Children’s Internet Use
Limiting your family’s internet usage not only boosts your browsing speed but also helps you prevent excessive time spent online, which may be detrimental to your child. Instead, you can set curfews for online gaming and browsing so that your kids can use some of their time reading books or doing practical lessons.
It can help to designate an area, such as the family room, as the only place your children can access the internet. This creates a clear boundary and a space that can be easily monitored. And don’t forget about time spent on mobile devices or tablets, too.
Keeping the kids off the web for more extended hours may also protect their eyes and reduce blue light exposure that could affect their sleep.
7. Install an Antivirus or Internet Security App
Antivirus software and internet security apps can help keep cybercriminals from inserting malware and other viruses into your home network. Real-time web protection can prevent suspicious sites from loading and block pop-ups. Great antivirus apps can even stop people from activating device webcams and recording your kids.
Get some good antivirus software that can schedule regular scans of your devices and networks and run them automatically. Set the highest protection levels on your online security software to prevent your children from accessing untrustworthy sites or downloading malicious software. Many security solutions also come with parental control features.
8. Demonstrate Healthy Behavior for Online Communities
Remind your kids that safe online use is not just about them but also about the community. They should not share unsuitable content, exhibit inappropriate behavior, or threaten, bully, or harass anyone.
Be careful when you post online as well, because children learn from observation, and they may not be old enough to understand jokes between adults or the use of sarcasm to make a point.
Watch for any behavioral changes in your child, such as becoming reclusive, moody, or refusing to do things they love doing. These may be signs of being cyberbullied. Talk to them to learn what has happened and try to control your anger to avoid making the wrong decisions and escalating the situation. If there are any signs of violent threats made toward your child, seek law enforcement assistance.
9. Guide Your Kids on Fact-Checking
While navigating an online world filled with misleading stories can be challenging, a crucial part of online browsing is understanding that some of the information or news provided may not be factual, and that some people may not be who they say they are.
Your kids may not realize that viral posts they’re sharing with their friends may be false or defamatory and that they can get in trouble. If they’re very young, monitor what they want to repost. If they’re older, guide them on using critical thinking skills to try to differentiate between real and fake stories.
Teach your children to check official sources when searching for information. They should not repost quotes before confirming their accuracy, and they should verify the author’s or reporter’s credentials before trusting the story. For instance, they can search for a video to discover who made the statement and in what context.
10. Create an Open and Safe Environment for Your Children
Despite the desire to protect children from all the online threats, they must still learn to navigate the web on their own, and that means giving them enough autonomy to take responsibility for their choices. Maintaining an open and welcoming approach is necessary to enable your kids to share their browsing experiences without any fear of punishment or criticism.
After all, you’ll need to be able to ask questions and honestly listen to the answers to figure out if there’s anything you need to worry about or if there’s something you need to say that will help your child the next time they go online.
Protecting your children online can be challenging because there are many dangers to consider, and there are situations you may have to respond to after they’ve already happened, such as bullying. The tips listed above provide proactive solutions you can use to prepare yourself and your kids for the threats they may encounter.
Use parental control features provided by your ISP, select family-friendly filters, and manage internet use on computers and mobile devices. Make your children aware of the dangers of sharing personal information online and install internet security tools to guard your network.