Internet Safety Tips
The digital world of hand-held devices, texting, social media, and the Internet is growing at an unprecedented speed, as most parents are aware. It can even be overwhelming when looking at the growth statistics of social media and the use of digital devices over the past 3 to 5 years. With all of the smart televisions, smart phones and smart homes, even smarter kids and teenagers are growing up “plugged-in” to this world of information.
While most of it is exciting and somewhat neutral or harmless, there are very real dangers lurking within all of those channels to find and exploit an unsuspecting child (or adult for that matter). Some parents are a bit oblivious or aloof, while others are possibly over-protective, yet there is a good balance of tips and tools out there to allow children and teens to use the Internet fairly safely. This process of informing, protecting and walking in accountability with your children can be a great opportunity to deepen your relationship and establish care and love as a strong foundation for a great relationship into a healthy adulthood. Here are some solid Internet safety tips and tools for helping build a realistic safety net while also protecting your children and developing healthy relationship dynamics.
1- Building a plan together
– The planning and conversational process of establishing boundaries in your home with your children can be a positive relationship-building experience. Including your children in the discussion from the onset is a great way to establish trust while giving them some healthy empowerment within healthy boundaries. Children who are not included and are just dictated or commanded without an ongoing conversational relationship through teen years have a tendency to build resentment and will more likely rebel or keep darker secrets if they cannot come to a parent in a safe, trusting environment. Starting early with your kids is the best way to develop this relational safety at home so that when your child does struggle with something personal or online, they will be more apt to inform you of their challenges, if they know you will deal with it in a helpful, positive manner. Building an ongoing Internet safety plan together in an ongoing relational dialogue is the foundation for a long-term successful plan and healthy child development. Children need to have some “say-so” within reason, in order to build a balanced self-confidence and healthy relationship dynamics.
2- Develop device location boundaries
– Be sure that the computers with Internet access or any devices that your children have access to are in areas where they are less tempted to do things and visit websites they should not visit. With the advancement of wireless devices, this can be more challenging but boundaries should be discussed and agreed upon before devices are purchased or set up with wireless access to the Internet.
3- Develop a list of do’s and dont’s
– There are many great websites out there about Internet safety and many great “checklists” as well as websites that help you develop a plan. Some of the ideas on these sites include: not posting personal information that would link your child to their home, phone number, or school; not wandering to sites that they are unfamiliar with; never meeting an Internet contact in person without parents; never sharing passwords with other people, etc. After doing some research, develop your own list of do’s and don’ts that suit your child’s age and your personal parenting boundary preferences. Here are some great references to start your list-
4- Discuss things weekly
– Keeping an open dialogue about what the child is experiencing is a great way to stay tuned into your child, while also helping them to feel loved. When a parent is uninvolved or allows children to do whatever they want for long periods of time un-checked, children are more likely to develop behavioral issues in their teen years and have issues with authority figures and structures in general. Boundaries are good and weekly discussions about how they are doing or any issues they face online or offline develop that sense of trust and self-worth. This will also help the parent be more in-tune with their children and more likely to notice subtle changes in their attitudes and behaviors that may be caused by more serious, underlying issues. Maintaining awareness and keeping an open dialogue where they do not feel overly-criticized is the key.
5- Employ helpful software
– Although protective software is really becoming “cutting-edge” it will never replace the relationship building and open, consistent dialogue you maintain with your children and teens. Software can do a lot, but there are always small leaks or ways around portions of software where danger can creep in through the loop-holes and digital cracks. There are great things you can do with your device software these days, whether you own tablets, smart phones, or laptops. Safety can start at the browser level, and protective browser software can be installed. Learn how to set up safety settings on your browsers to filter things that are just not good for your kids and family. Because browsers are not the only window to the digital world, accountability software is also a great thing to install because it can be used to alarm you when your child reads something with explicit language or concepts. One good example of accountability software that we have used for the past few years is “Accountable2You”. You can set up accountability partners to get alerts and daily logs of all device activity, whether the device is using text, social media, apps, email or video sites like Youtube. Accountability software is far more universal than having browser filters, because it alerts the partner whenever anything questionable it encountered on any part of the device. You can also set your own “strictness” level and can have multiple devices on 1 account, including coverage for both Android and iOs devices.
6- Handle failure lovingly
– Kids fail. So do adults. Handling their failure lovingly and with appropriate discipline is one of the biggest challenges of parenting, period. When your child does fail, this can be a great time to discuss issues or pressures or temptations they are facing, and can often lead to the underlying root of the issue. Many times, kids and teens act out or look for trouble online because they are experiencing some other bigger issue in their internal world, or their social world. If handled with love and appropriate dialogue and discipline when necessary, your child will develop a sense of deepening trust in your and they will be more likely to come to you when bigger challenges confront them in life.
While there are no real formulas for raising our children perfectly, there are also no formulas for the perfect Internet, social media and email safety plan. Building a solid plan, using proven resources, and doing it on the foundation of a loving, growing parent-child relationship with an open, ongoing dialogue is the key to safety and success. In the next part of this series, we will talk about some specific tips on protecting your children specifically when using email, as it has unique challenges on its own. Finally, we will review some strategies for safety with social media use.
About the Author: Aaron Schulman is an Internet, SEO and Email marketing professional who consults with companies on internet marketing, affiliate and email marketing, and writes thorough reviews on relationship building and reputable tools such as his recent Aweber review. He has a loving wife and 3 daughters from 18 years to 4 years old. He and his wife have been through the gamut of issues on Internet, social media, and email safety issues for family and have developed a winning plan of accountability using some of the ideas discussed in this article series.