The Internet can be an educational tool, source of entertainment, and method of communication. However, there are a number of risks associated with the Internet as well, so it’s important that we educate our kids about how to be a safe consumer of technology. Here are a few tips for when and how to have these conversations.
When to have the talk
When is the right time to start having age-appropriate conversations about online safety? As soon as your child begins using the Internet. Even if you’re still supervising everything they do on the computer, it’s important to make them aware of the precautions they must take to stay safe.
What points to cover
- Stranger Danger. This is especially important if your child uses social media sites or gaming consoles that allow them to connect with other people. Xbox and PlayStation 4 are two examples of systems that include this feature. If your child accesses one of these systems, it may be a good idea to adjust the “Privacy and Online Safety” settings to your comfort level.
- Mental Health. Even if they follow all the rules and avoid talking to people they don’t know in real life, bullying is an issue that seems to have only gotten worse with the increase in social media use. Another mental health risk is the time factor–it’s easy for adults to get sucked into technology, and the same applies to our kids! Setting solid guidelines for how much time can be spent on technology is a good way to prevent this issue. The Nintendo Switch even allows parents to control how long the device stays on through their mobile app!
- Privacy and Information. Passwords protect our personal information–but only if those passwords are secure. Educate your child on what makes a password safe. Using a different password for every site and using numbers, capital letters, and special characters are good ways to ensure password security.
Other tips to keep them safe
When all else fails, monitoring behavior is an effective method to keep your child (especially young ones) safe on the Internet. Keeping the computer in a shared space such as a living room helps encourage safe behavior and allows you to see if they are engaging in any activities that may be unsafe. If your kiddo has a mobile phone or tablet, blocking sites you’re uncomfortable with them visiting is an alternative that still allows you some control over their online activity. In short, educate your child about staying safe online, model safe practices, and check in to make sure those guidelines are being followed.