May 29, 2018

While many parents are putting up a good fight, today’s kids are fully immersed in a technology-based world. More than ever we are learning that we are vulnerable to targeted attacks and the possibility of having our personal information exploited.

If we, as adults, are at risk, what about our children? Would they be able to identify a questionable situation? Would they know what to do if they were sent a questionable message? These are questions worth addressing.

Here are some ways you can help protect your kids from the dangers of the internet.

Open Communication

First and foremost, you need to have a conversation about technology use. Of course, this will have to be age-appropriate and should happen regularly as your child grows and gains access to more devices and features.

Keep the communication going and make it clear that, no matter what, you are open and ready to answer questions or discuss a topic. Never make them feel bad if they admit to talking to a stranger or stumbling onto a porn site. You want to make them feel like they can come to you—even for the embarrassing or scary stuff.

Lesson in Security

We all can have a false sense of security because nearly everyone carries a smartphone to access the internet or apps. It can give the impression that this is safer than it actually is. The reality is that security breaches and phishing scams exist and our kids need to know how to avoid falling for a trap.

Warn your children about the dangers of giving out vital information and the importance of creating strong passwords (and not sharing them with anyone—including friends!).

Clear Guidelines

Once you’ve given your children a lesson on internet safety, it’s time to come up with some guidelines for using whatever devices they’ve been given. Get specific and don’t assume that your kids will make good decisions when faced with a challenge.

Do they need to ask permission before downloading an app? Should they ever respond to “support emails” asking them to confirm their identities? Is it okay to use their social media accounts to log in to other sites? Cover as much ground as possible so that you’re on the same page.

Social Mapping

GPS tracking can be an incredible thing when you’ve lost your phone but it can also put your kids at risk. Of course, you have to weigh the pros and cons but, if you choose to use your device’s location features, explain the potential dangers to your children.

If they broadcast where they are to the world through social media posts, their friends (and parents) will be able to find them, but other people can too. Strangers will know your child’s name, what they look like, and where they like to hang out. Not to sound too dramatic but that could be a life-threatening combination.

Parental Controls

If your child is younger or you’d feel more comfortable, you can always make use of the parental controls. Typically, most mobile carriers have their own in addition to the ones pre-loaded into your phone. Also, you can check whatever sites and apps your child visits for more options too.

The goal is to make staying safe as easy as possible which could involve you limiting internet access, managing how much time your child spends using a device, and programming emergency buttons.

Every family is different so assess your own needs and come up with a strategy that works for you. Keep your child in the loop along the way and have conversations about the safe use of the internet regularly, especially as they get older. Technology can be scary and intimidating but, with the right tools, you can let go of some of the fear while helping your child become savvy and empowered.