This is a sponsored guest post.
The Internet can be an unwelcoming place for kids, with hate speech, cyberstalkers, cyberbullying and predators present on social media sites and other places online. While some parental control features and software do part of the work for creating a family-friendly environment, there are several other measures that should be put in place as well.
What Types of Content Make the Internet Not Family-Friendly?
Inappropriate content comes in many forms, and may vary as the children grow older. Many parents focus on pornography, but there are other types of material that they should look out for as well. For example, there are many videos that are billed as family-friendly on Youtube that take on many strange forms, which can be disturbing and distressing for children who were expecting something else featuring their favorite characters. The most well-known of these incidents is referred to as Elsagate.
As kids participate in online activities, such as social media and gaming, the opportunity for cyberbullying and predation appear. Cyberbullying, whether the child is the victim or perpetrator, can have a long-lasting impact on their behavior and mental health. Online predators can use chat rooms, forums, games and other types of engagement to connect with a child for inappropriate activity.
Many adults fall prey to malware, so it’s no surprise that children would be at a heightened risk of falling for this malicious software too. Whether it’s attached to a kid game or on a website that they frequent, it’s easy for the system to get infected when they aren’t aware of the risks.
They may also end up encountering requests for money, such as through mobile apps that have microtransactions. If they have easy access to a credit card or another way to pay, then they could spend a lot of money before the parents realize what happens. In general, children are going to think of short-term gain over long-term consequences, whether that involves posting an embarrassing photo or getting some benefit out of an online game in exchange for money.
Methods for Creating a Family-Friendly Online Experience
While there might be a lot of risks out there, the opportunities created by the Internet require parents to protect their children without taking away their access entirely. Kids that don’t have access to the Internet on a regular basis can end up falling behind in many skills that are essential to living (and eventually working) in today’s society. Use these methods for a comprehensive plan to keeping the kids safe.
- Start with parental controls. Some programs have these features built-in, and parents can also choose to have an application that oversees the entire Internet experience. Play with the settings so that it’s not blocking too much of the Internet for the kids. These settings can be adjusted as they get older to better reflect their growing maturity.
- Put a VPN in place for better privacy. A virtual private network service stops websites from being able to find out a person’s IP address, as well as encrypting all of the traffic that’s sent through the service. It can be a useful tool for protecting children during their online experiences, which is covered in this article.
- Teach kids about online privacy. Children may not think about the personal information that they’re putting out there. Teaching them about what strangers can do with that information can be helpful in showing them why maintaining privacy is essential.
- Teach your kids to respect age restrictions. The age restrictions in place on website are for a reason. Many social media sites don’t accept users under 13 years of age, which is common for other web services as well. If they are brought up to respect that these rules are in place and should be followed, then they’re less likely to end up in a place that’s inappropriate for their age.
- Perform proactive maintenance on their devices. Avoid malware laden computers, tablets and smartphones by being proactive about software and operating system updates.
- Make computer time into family time. Younger children may need a lot of guidance to use online resources appropriately. Make the primary Internet device one that’s in a family room or a similar shared space. Parents are able to monitor activity and encounter plenty of teaching moments.
- Provide guidelines on engaging with people online. Let kids know how they can interact with strangers online, and what to be aware of when it comes to interactions that may not be appropriate. Make it clear what they should and shouldn’t share about themselves, and make sure that their bio, photos and other user-submitted content keep their identities safe. .
- Offer age-appropriate cyber security education. It’s never too early to learn about cyber security, especially as more and more companies become victims of data breaches. When children grow up as cyber security aware people, they can take those skills into their career with them. It’s great knowledge to have, personally and professionally.
- Teach them how to use and maintain their devices. Parents don’t have to be the ones performing all of the setup, configuration and maintenance on the devices forever. They can show their children how to do these processes themselves, which limits the chances that malware gets on the system and keeps all of the hardware in good working order.
- Talk about the dangers of sending nude photos. Many teens or younger may find themselves tempted to try sexting or end up being pressured by others to send nude photos. In some cases, this could be considered distributing child pornography and has the chance of damaging their lives for a long time. Have the uncomfortable conversation about this topic. It’s difficult to bring up, but it can help preteens and teens avoid a lot of strife as they get older.
It’s challenging to maintain a family-friendly space for kids online, but all that effort is worth it to help them take advantage of the Internet without all of the drawbacks. This guide offers a systemtic approach to accomplishing this goal.