As I spoke with moms last week for To TV or Not to TV, thoughts of limiting screen time naturally led to the topic of internet safety. One mom told me about a recent experience. She and her husband paid a lot of attention to their children’s online life and safety. Every app had been approved as child safe. She drilled her kids about the dangers of communicating with unknown people on-line. They had limited usage and knew their actions would be checked. Even after all that, she discovered that one of her children had been texting a stranger through a game app they hadn’t realized had a communication feature!
The event reminded this mom’s family and all of us that we have to be careful not to assume our kids are covered. I researched the potential risks for kids online and found that, on top of the huge potential for cyber-bullying and scams, one in five kids receive sexual solicitations of some sort online. One out of every FIVE! I think about my daughter’s class, almost all of whom are online in some capacity. This statistic means that at least six of them will encounter some sort sexual conversation. You can find all sorts of articles about this topic, but I want to share what real moms are saying about keeping their kids safe.
- My kids know everything goes through me. They have no privacy.
- They aren’t allowed on YouTube because it is so easy to stumble onto inappropriate videos. She searched “Disney Princess” and ended up with picture of them in bed with the princes! Good thing I was watching.
- You can set up an iPad to only accept G rated apps.
- The Kindle has good parental control programs built-in that you can set to allow what you want. They can still get online to read but not anything else.
- When you choose an email, don’t get G-mail. If something happens, you don’t have the ability to block a sender.
- Double check apps for internal texting options!
- We keep the computer in our bedroom so there’s no funny business happening while they’re on.
- We don’t have cable. An antenna cuts down on accessibility.
- Every electronic device: phone, iPad, tablet, etc, stays in our room at night.
- The kids can play on the iPad but we turn the wifi off completely.
- We have a guided access function on iPads and phones that keeps them from closing the app you open for them or opening something else.
- The kids can only play approved games or videos and can only search with us there.
- We installed monitoring software on all computers and iPads.
- Our family has a “charging hub” where everything goes when not in use.
- The kids are forbidden to put any personal information online: full name, where we live, birthday, phone numbers, pictures. They also know that someone asking to meet in person isn’t just not allowed, it’s a warning that there’s danger.
- We don’t allow any electronic communication friending, texting, or gaming, with people we don’t know in real life.
Most moms agree, the most important factor is that, whatever other steps taken, we stay aware of what our kids are doing online and prepare them for safe public lives.