Technology has become a part of our everyday life. It affects just about everything, from how we pay our bills to how we meet new people. People find themselves surrounded by new online programs and apps every day in our work and personal lives. Since virtual learning has become so important during this pandemic, children are now accessing the Internet more each day and have the world at their fingertips. So, what does that mean for their safety and how do we keep kids safe? Since technology is opening up the world for them, what else could it be letting into your home?
When kids are online, they should be careful about what websites they visit and need to protect their personal information. Dangers can come from any game or website out there. If a child is chatting with someone while playing online games or adding unfamiliar faces on social media, this can open them up to strangers taking advantage of them. While there are many dangers that can come from these unknown connections, they should be concerned that the information shared on the Internet stays out in the world forever. Unkind words, threats, or inappropriate content is not erased when the post or chat gets deleted. Screenshots can keep this information alive indefinitely.
Regardless of what your kids are searching for, sometimes inappropriate results can appear on any search engine. There are parental controls set up on sites like Google, or for an entire computer to control what they have access to and keep kids safe. These will block websites with sexual, violent, or other explicit materials to give you reassurance when your kids are online. If you choose to purchase security features, they can provide additional features and more protection.
Even with parental controls, kids can access content online that may not be appropriate for their age group. Unfortunately, the restricted sites are not fool-proof and they will not block 100% of the adult content. Internet users can find ways to get materials onto children friendly sites, such as YouTube Kids. Your children can stumble upon these videos even when using this regulated platform. It is important that you keep an eye on what your kids are watching when they are using devices. You are their greatest protection, so it helps when they have you looking out for them. Make sure you have open communication about what is appropriate and what is not allowed so they are prepared to handle using the Internet outside of the home as well.
If you model the behavior you would like your kids to follow, they learn from watching you. If you are worried about who their online friends and connections are, show them that you only add people on your social media that you personally know. The same can be said for keeping your personal information and location private. Leading by example helps them understand the positives that can come from technology, but also how to safely use the Internet for educational and entertainment purposes.
With all the ways we use technology, children are online more than ever before. They are using it for education, games, and everything in between. To make sure we keep kids safe when online, we should lead by example showing them how to protect personal information. Parents and guardians can install parental controls and monitor online activity to assure protection. With all of these safety measures in place, everyone can all take advantage of the useful features that the Internet has to offer.