19 Jul Protecting your kids with practical Internet safety
by Brittany Gilbert
We all know how technology can be a wonderful thing, and, unfortunately, we all probably know how technology can get us and our kids into trouble. All it takes is one pop up or one seemingly innocent Google search and suddenly our children have been exposed to things that they aren’t ready to see or never should see. Sadly, by that point, you can’t erase what has already happened.
However, you can set up safeguards to prevent and protect your children from the wonderful world of technology.
If your children are little, don’t think they are too young to be exposed to the bad side of the Internet. If they are exposed to the web and there aren’t proper settings in place to avoid everything that could pop up, they, too, are at risk of seeing things they aren’t ready to see.
Our boys are 3-and-a-half and 18 months, and the things they have almost seen have encouraged me to research ways to protect them, even at this age. For instance, we love YouTube. We enjoy watching all kinds of videos, everything from the alphabet to animals, to episodes of their favorite shows. However, I do not love the ads that play in the middle of these videos. I was shocked to see a preview of a horror movie playing during a video for children. Thankfully, we were able to stop the video before they noticed what was playing, but it opened my eyes to the possibility that technology could impact them even at such a young age.
I’m also thankful that there are ways to safeguard the Internet and make it safe for your children to enjoy.
Limit time spent online. For our boys, their video time is used as an incentive and in small increments.
Keep computer in sight. Kids are much less likely to browse questionable sites when they know a parent can walk by at any moment.
Use security tools and privacy features to keep out as much unsafe content as possible.
Regularly check the browser history to see what sites your child is visiting.
Talk to your child about Internet safety. Just as you would talk to your children about being safe around strangers, teach them about the very real dangers of cyber space. There are so many stories of young teens who think they are meeting a new friend that is their age, only to be face to face with someone who is not at all who they said they were and is intent on doing them harm. Help your child to think critically about the content they browse on the Internet and whether it is helpful or hurtful. The goal is for our children to be responsible users of technology.
If your child is on Facebook and other social media sites, review their friend lists and make sure they are only friends with people you know. Also, be aware that some students have several Facebook accounts.
Make sure anything involving personal information is marked as private. Otherwise, anyone can click on your page and see hometown, birthdate, etc.
Have your children sign a safety pledge. These can be found at safekids.com and are an excellent conversation starter and resource to use in promoting Internet safety.
I think we can all agree that the Internet is a powerful tool and can be so useful when used in the right ways. Just as you teach your child the right way to drive a car and be a responsible driver, it is so important to keep the conversation going with Internet safety.
Brittany Gilbert is a former FACS teacher at Maumelle High School. She and her husband, Levi, have two sons and live in Conway. Brittany can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.