How To Navigate The Internet Safely – A Practical Guide For Parents
Online security tips to protect your children!
The internet is a plethora of the good, the bad, and the ugly. The internet is a myriad of things that certainly benefits us in many ways. And to children, because of its easy availability, the internet is not just a benefactor but also a tool that plays a major role in developing their social, communication, and creative skills.
However, what can come as a blessing can also be a curse. It is essential for parents to realize the same. Kids these days have no problem accessing the internet, which often comes with its fair share of risks. This is because the internet can also be a tool that exposes kids online to inappropriate content, predators, groomers, and even cyberbullies.
While it is necessary for parents to monitor what their children see and do online to protect them from harm, constant monitoring might make you feel like you are invading their privacy. And the possibility of it making things awkward between you and your child is not a far cry. I mean, imagine asking your child what website they visit. Not only will it seem like you don’t trust them (which will prove to be extremely counter-productive in the long run), but actions such as those also tend to make things awkward between the individuals involved.
If and when you feel helpless and wonder what you must do to protect your children, it is best to always to remember that the key to solving most problems around us is by educating ourselves on the issue and the measures we can take to overcome it. And the same applies to the topic we are going to talk about as well. You should ensure that your child and yourself are aware of the dangers of the internet and how you should protect yourselves from them. You should be able to identify the warning signs. You should know everything there is to know about online security.
If you don’t know how to identify these threats and what it is you have to do to protect your children from the harms of the internet, then fret not. We have put together a list of everything you can do to protect yourself and your children from the internet’s harm while teaching you how to navigate the internet with the utmost online security.
Facets of the Internet
When educating yourself and your kids about safe internet navigation, you must understand the various nuances that come with it. To do this, you should know what the internet means to kids and teens, what can prove to be a threat, and how you can protect them from future harm.
While this might seem a tad bit overwhelming, you will be able to get through the process. After all, parents are and will always ultimately be the most effective advocates in helping their children navigate the internet safely, right?
Kids and What The Internet Means to Them
With the internet being readily available, we live in a day and age where everything revolves around it. And for the current generation, who can access it without hassle, the internet has played a major role in their lives, thus making them heavily dependent on it. Thus, when a parent tries to monitor a kid’s internet usage, the outcome often leads to needless arguments.
It is important to understand what the internet means to kids these days. As the image above suggests, the internet plays an integral role in your child’s life. Ranging from using it to do school work to streaming movies and playing games, the internet is present in every walk of life. While for some, the internet might seem like a tool that helps them pass their time, for others, it is a safe space that lets them explore different ideas and come in contact with communities that share the same experiences. It also becomes a place where kids and teens seek advice regarding physical and mental health.
That being the case, teenagers, more often than not, are online without adult supervision or parental control. This, in turn, means that they need to be able to identify acceptable and unacceptable online content independently. While you might think teens know better than kids about what’s good and what’s not, they are just as impressionable. Thus, the internet can easily manipulate them into witnessing or partaking in inappropriate activities.
- The Internet is ENTERTAINING!
If the internet has proven one thing, it is that it can be a source of all types of fun. And if we adults find streaming movies and endless scrolling fun, then kids, human bundles of joy that can make anything fun, will for sure make the most of the internet. For them, the internet is not just a platform that lets them watch Adventure Time but a platform that also gives them the chance to challenge their intellect and compete with other kids online.
- It Makes Learning Fun
Of course, no post about the benefits that the internet brings children should fail to mention learning. What’s great about internet learning is that it is personalized and based on what the kid wants to learn. The internet can teach a kid many things ranging from the concept of gravity to how to play the ukulele. What’s better is that most of the resources the internet provides can be accessed for free!
- The Internet Helps Kids Stay Organized
Another thing that the internet is making much easier is staying organized. Children these days have lots of homework and busy calendars. But thanks to the internet, they can better organize themselves and their time. Staying organized is a good skill for kids to develop for the future. Being able to allocate time effectively is a great way to get stuff done.
- It Lets Kids Explore Their Creativity
Whether it is music, writing, or art, the internet provides a wealth of free resources for them to use. Today, there are even places where kids can sell their creative work and get royalties in return. For example, there are sites that will pay you each time somebody purchases a product with your chosen design on it. There are also sites that will allow you to sell things you’ve written, like short stories.
- It Lets Kids Make Friends
While meeting people in real life is arguably better, the internet is also a place where kids can make new friends. It’s easy to connect with a pen pal who lives on the other side of the planet when you have access to a laptop. They can make or find friends who love the same interests as them. The internet lets you make friends by making you connect with fellow gamers, writers, artists, etc. However, it is important for parents to stay engaged and help them find the right places for healthy friendships.
- It Allows Kids to Get Support
Being a kid isn’t easy. The human body is the most sophisticated piece of equipment on this planet, but nobody has a user manual. Figuring out how to navigate life, therefore, can be extremely challenging. There are a lot of kids and teen forums out there that are well-moderated and allow youngsters to talk to people going through similar life situations and issues as them. Again, It is important for parents to stay engaged through the process to help verify the places their kids are going on the internet are truly providing the support needed.
The internet benefits kids in various other ways as well, but we believe these are the benefits that play a huge role in a kid’s life. Now that we have looked at some of the good, let’s take a look at some of the bad, shall we?
- Fake Information / News
The internet, if anything, is a plethora of clickbait, misinformation, and fake news, and it is a major online concern. As more children and teenagers take to the internet and social media for news and information, it can be hard for them to identify what’s real and fake.
- Media Manipulation
Anyone from anywhere can create social media accounts. And if a child has access to social media, they can follow any account they want. Some of these accounts tend to express their strong opinion of a particular value they hold dear. And to back up their claims and values, they tend to post fake content. This can not only radicalize an impressionable minor into holding strong ideologies over something that can be very negative but also manipulate them into being a part of the cult-like forum.
- Quixotic Standards
Over the decade, famous companies and magazines have been criticized for upholding unrealistic beauty standards, lifestyle, and financial success. And despite these criticisms, the internet is a platform that lets these companies’ spread their ideologies, thus bombarding kids with these so-called standards everywhere, even at home. Apart from that, using filters and photoshopping creates idealized images that can fuel negative feelings and insecurities.
- Getting Exposed to Inappropriate Content
Because of its easy accessibility, children are becoming more active online. This, in turn, increases the probability that they may come across something inappropriate. The inappropriate content can come from children joining social media platforms before reaching the minimum age, accidentally watching inappropriate live streams, using apps that are not suitable for children, etc.
Inappropriate content is not just sexual in nature. It can also include materials directed to adults ranging from inappropriate information to websites encouraging people to engage in dangerous or unlawful behavior. This includes pornographic content; exposure to explicit language, images, and videos; games with graphic violence; websites that encourage harmful activities like racism and suicide; gambling sites; and unmoderated chatrooms.
- Online Predators / Groomers
The internet lets you talk to people worldwide. While there are chances that your child will meet their future best friend, there is also a possibility for your child to meet online individuals who are not who they claim to be. Often called catfishers, there are people out there who single out children because of their predatory tendencies. Online predators like these normally use fake profiles and target children on sites popular with young people, like social media, online games, and chat rooms. They try to build an emotional connection with their young, impressionable targets.
- Cyberbullying – The Victim or The Perpetrator
Cyberbullying is a term used to describe people abusing others via digital channels, like social media posts, instant messages, email, etc. As with any form of bullying, cyberbullying can be very distressing for children. The internet can also make your child the perpetrator of cyberbullying. There is a fine line between bullies and victims on the internet because it gives them anonymity.
Online Security Tips For Parents
- Teach Your kids how to navigate the internet
Apart from educating children not to believe fake news and to not talk to strangers, it is advised you teach them how to surf the internet safely.
Wondering what to teach?
Teach them that they should only visit secure (HTTPS) sites. Warn them about phishing scams and shady emails. Inform them what to look for by teaching them proper online behavior and online privacy. Ask them to immediately report to you if they find something suspicious or feel iffy about someone. Most importantly, make sure they know the Dos and the Don’ts.
For kids who are curious about the internet but are too young to know right from wrong, introduce kid friendly search engines like Kiddle and KidRex.
- Set Parental Controls
Switch on YouTube Safe Mode and Google Safe Search. Most, if not all, devices, including computers and WiFi routers, come with built-in parental controls. Often, despite the easy set-up of parental controls, they are often overlooked during the initial set-up. You can control access times and set website category blocking with parental controls.
- Create Strict Rules and Boundaries
Come to an agreement with your kids on rules and boundaries on the internet. Set rules that align with the amount of time your kids can be on the internet, the time the kids can surf the web, where they can use the internet, and what sort of things they can do on the internet.
- Use a trusted VPN
A trusted VPN will not only let you stream Netflix movies from other countries, it will also safeguard your sensitive data with its impenetrable wall of encryption. How does this help your child? VPNs prevent snooping eyes from knowing what your child is doing online or where they’re browsing from. VPNs also protect you from dangerous websites, inappropriate pop-up ads, malicious malware, and other viruses. Your online security is as protected as can be with the use of a trusted VPN.
- Protect, Backup, and Update
Ensure that your internet browser, operating system, anti-virus, and programs are regularly updated. If you set up your operating system or app or anti-virus to update automatically, the programs will automatically be updated when a new update is added. Some updates would be bug fixes and improved security, which are necessary because these updates will prevent cyber criminals from hacking your account. Always use an external or cloud-based backup system to save photos and documents in the event that anything happens to your device.
- Stay on Top
Most kids are given their first tablet or internet-connected device before they can fully comprehend the power they possess. Your parenting will need to change with the technology, so research the latest trends and always stay on top.
Set an Example
The internet is not something we can take away from our children. As mentioned earlier, because it has become a part of life, we do not have absolute control of it encroaching its way into the lives of youngsters. Despite that being the case, online security is often taken lightly. You come across devastating news about innocent kids being scammed or bullied every week.
It is evident that we must try our best and protect our kids, to prevent such incidents. Oftentimes, we don’t follow through with the rules we set because the children will question our usage and make it look like we are being unfair.
Thus, to protect your kids, above all else, practice what you preach and put the same guardrails on your own behavior. Talk about your own struggles and take steps to show your children that you are an accountable digital citizen.
As technology continues to shift, so will our tactics to control any adverse effects on our lives. So, always keep in mind that we are not all experts and that if you are simply not confident, we are all learning together. And with that, I hope this article encourages you to do the best you can to protect yourself and your loved ones!
Did these tips help you? Do you have any tips that can help us? Let us know in the comments below!