It is a fact that the internet is a scary place. Some of the online inhabitants are nasty creatures – predators, peddlers of pornography and other varieties of bad actors. On the other hand, the internet is also a marvelous, mind-expanding environment offering entertainment, education, and useful everyday information.
It can be difficult to tell the “good guys” from the “bad guys” and protect kids from the traps along the internet information highway.
There is no absolute answer because the internet is an ever-evolving universe, and an electronic remedy that is effective today may be entirely useless tomorrow.
Where to start
Security experts suggest the most important element in a child protection plan has nothing to do with technology but is instead about having an open conversation with your kids.
Dave Lewis, a global security advocate with Akamai Technologies, states “Kids really are information sponges, so if you package it in a way that makes them feel like they’re learning something, you’ll get a better return on that investment”. Lewis suggests that framing parental comments in an informational tone rather than frightening or accusatory terms is very important. The objective is to make kids comfortable sharing information with their parents and tech-savvy enough to recognize potential online problems.
Continued parental education is critical to maintaining your child’s online safety. There are parental blocks, antivirus software, kid-friendly browsers and other security tools that parents can utilize to protect their kids. But first, parents need to know about them. There is software capable of blocking off the nastiest sites on the web and controlling a child’s daily screen time. Router settings can be configured to block some domains. Individual apps also include settings that limit access to certain areas of the web.
There are additional resources for continued education, and experts are everywhere, including school counselors, therapists, technology firms and YouTube.
There is no “one size fits all” protection tool. Protecting kids from online risk is and will continue to be an endless endeavor. However, what parents can do includes:
- Talking about it: Frequent, open-ended conversations with the kids can be beneficial for all.
- Setting time limits: Set limits on the amount of computer time your children can have each day.
- Putting web limits in place: Designate some sites as taboo and unable to be accessed.
- Using internet safety tools: Install things such as firewall, antivirus and VPN software.
- Ensuring software patches are done in a timely manner: Promptly install updates whenever they are available.
- Being selective about computer location: Put the computer in a “public” area of the house.
- Sharing information: Talk to other parents concerning their experiences.
- Consulting experts: Reach out to therapists or psychologists for more information.
- Obtaining access to additional information: Subscribe to computer magazines or other publications that report on internet safety frequently.
- Being available: Talk to your child whenever they want to talk about technology and the Internet.