In a day and age when the Internet is widely accessible, it can seem intimidating and even exhausting to try and monitor a child’s activity on their device. Many parents worry about online predators, inappropriate content, and scams that their child may be exposed to, but because of this widespread concern among parents, many tools have been created to help keep children safe when they are online.
1. Always Watch What Your Child is Doing Online
It isn’t completely practical or even realistic to constantly monitor your child’s activity online, but for younger children who just want to play games on the iPad or computer, it is easy to have a designated spot for them to sit where you can see them and what they are doing.
For older children who have their own devices that they take with them to school, work, or to hang out with their friends, it may be useful to download monitoring software onto their phone so you can make sure they are not looking at inappropriate content or using their device for an excessive amount of time.
2. Talk Openly with Your Child about Their Online Activity
To keep your child talking openly with you about what they are doing on their personal devices, make sure you don’t get upset or become judgemental when they share things you do not want to hear.
If a child feels like you are upset with them for something they didn’t know was wrong to look at or engage in, it may be difficult for them to open up in the future. This behavior can also encourage lying and dishonesty to escape your anger and potential punishment.
3. Keep Screens and Devices Where You Can See Them
Many parents like to have their children charge their phones downstairs or in a public area at night and some parents don’t even allow screens to be used in bedrooms or with the door closed. Whether or not you do this is up to you, so do what you feel will work best for you and your children.
4. Be Open and Honest about Online Dangers
Children can be lured into very real-life dangers if they engage with the wrong people or websites online. Stolen information, stalkers, pedophiles, child pornography, and porn addictions are just a few of the more extreme examples of things that can happen to an unsuspecting child.
Educating your children about the dangers that lurk online is essential for their safety and security, and yours as well. Make sure they know they shouldn’t trust someone who messages them wanting to be their friend from an unknown account or someone who wants to send them money. Children are very trusting, which makes them very vulnerable.
5. Become Familiar with Parental Controls
Parental controls range from software installed directly onto a device to time limit restrictions on apps. Some of the most popular parental control apps include:
- Net Nanny
These apps can monitor activity and even read text messages being sent to and from your child’s device. There are also different services that control your WiFi or allow you to control your child’s device from your own. Services like these include:
6. Know Your Kid’s Online Friends
This will be easier the younger your child is, but teaching them to only accept friend or follow requests from people they know personally will greatly reduce the risk of them being stalked or used by predators.
While your child is younger, it may be easier to monitor who they follow on Instagram and who they have added on Snapchat, but as they grow older, you will have to develop trust in their judgment.
7. Talk to Your Kids about the Importance of Privacy
Children are naturally trusting human beings, which makes them easy to prey on by online predators. It is important to teach your child that they need to keep certain things private, such as your home address, their location, their social security number, and even their age and last name. It is impossible to be too careful, and it is important to stress this fact to your child.
8. Keep Track of Online Time
The screen time function on Apple devices has made it easy to restrict time on apps, and this can be useful in tracking screen time, time spent on each app, and limits for time spent on every app. For younger children, setting a timer for their screen time every day is an easy way to keep track of how much time they are spending online.
9. Make them Ask Permission Before Downloading an App
Some parents like to have the password for both restrictions and the app store on their children’s devices, which makes it impossible to download new apps without parental supervision. As stated above, it is easier to keep these restrictions on younger children, while older children may not understand why you are trying to control their devices and online browsing.
10. Use Child-Friendly Browsers or Plugins
Kid-friendly browsers are the same as a regular search engine except for the fact that they generally have kid-friendly content and restrictions on what shows up. A few examples of popular kid-friendly browsers include:
- SPIN Safe Browser
- Kidsplorer Web Browser
11. Install Ad Blockers
Ad blockers are simply browser extensions that prevent ads from popping up. The benefits of ad blockers include preventing third-party companies from tracking your browsing history, making sure that the website is secure and doesn’t hold viruses, and preventing ads on websites.
12. Keep Separate Kids Accounts for All Devices
Having a separate account for your children to use on your family computer, your TV, and any other device can help protect your child from inappropriate content when they are online by themselves. Most streaming services have options to keep the content on kids’ profiles age-appropriate, keeping appropriate content on the screen when they are watching TV alone.
13. Lead by Example
Make sure you are not spending an excessive amount of time on your device or viewing inappropriate content. Children are very sharp and take notice of lots of things, including the way you manage your screen time. If they see you practicing what they preach, they will be more likely to listen to your advice and follow your rules surrounding devices.