Keep your kids safe on the internet

Yesterday was Safer Internet Day – a global initiative aimed at promoting safer and more responsible use of online technology.

As a mum with kids who have cellphones, tablets, computers and gaming consoles, the issue of online appropriateness is something I am acutely aware of.

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A debate about whether to allow my son online connectivity so that he can game online with his buddies is still raging in our home.

While I have to concede the internet is an essential and valuable resource for me, I am also aware of its dangers – especially for the vulnerable or innocent. And as my children have begun utilising the internet more and more, I’ve had to give serious thought to how I can guide them in using it responsibly.

Because it’s not practical to completely ban kids from the online world, it’s essential to look at the alternative – teaching them more responsible habits, and teaching yourself to be more vigilant.

Google SA offers the following tips on fostering a safer internet in your household:

Talk, talk, talk

Have frank discussions with your family about online safety, the rules and expectations around online use, what sites are or aren’t appropriate, and the consequences of breaking the rules.

It’s a no-brainer that kids should feel comfortable talking about online safety – it ensures that they will have no reservations about coming to you when they have questions or are unsure of how to handle difficult situations online.

internet safeParticipate

The most effective course of action is to get involved.

Think of it like this: you’re allowing your child into a public playground with all kinds of possibilities and threats – you wouldn’t let them out of your sight. The internet is no different – you need to use technology together, and learn about it together.

The younger your kids are, the more strongly you will need to participate in their web use. This may involve more than simply installing a parental control on your home browser.

Stay up to date

Many adults are not fully aware of what new devices and apps can do.

If your kids are old enough to own their own devices, it’s best to understand what’s installed on their cellphones, tablets and gaming consoles, and of course, what they’re capable of.

Safe browsing

The internet has a number of protocols that can help you protect your computer and its access to less desirable parts of the web.

Simple searches for online safety will bring up a host of tools available to parents to help them safeguard their kids.

I looked up the Google Safety Centre which is a comprehensive site to help you understand online safety and where to start in securing the computer/s your kids have access to.

Key to safe browsing is setting up safe passwords and impressing on your kids not to share them with anyone.

Make sure your children develop a habit of signing out of online accounts.

internet safe2Privacy

As soon as kids begin accessing the internet, they should be taught exactly what kinds of information should never be revealed online.

Names, addresses, details of family and friends etc – predators feed on this information.

Kids are taught about “stranger danger” from a young age at schools. This approach applies to the web more than ever.

Familiarise yourself with the privacy settings on sites you as well as your children use, and use the settings to decide who can see content before you post it.

Again, talk about what is appropriate to share on social media sites.

Take note of age restrictions on some sites – they’re there for a reason.

Guides

Encourage responsible online communication by teaching your children that if they wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, they shouldn’t say it online.

You also need to guide your kids on what to do if they feel uncomfortable with an experience on the web. Cyberbullying, for example, has become a serious issue, and may have legal implications.

Assuring your child that they can tell you when something feels wrong is very important. Talk, talk, talk…

In general, parent must stay active and involved. Technology and the way we use it is evolving, so it’s important to stay up to date and to review and revise your ground rules as you go, and as your kids grow.

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About Meneesha

Online and books editor by day, mum even while I sleep, individual all the time. I live in the beautiful city of Durban - the unpolished gem in South Africa. If I didn't have a family, I'd be that crazy cat lady your mum probably warned you not to feed! Blogging is where I share, vent, rant, laugh and generally be myself. Join the ride!

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