Internet is easily accessible to your child. Find out how you can keep your child safe online.
Internet access is more accessible to our children more than ever before. Our children are able to access and use internet wherever they are.
They can access internet on handheld devices, at home, in school or when using the school bus.
This offers our children unlimited benefits that includes:-
- explore their interests
- positive impact on their education and development
- stay connected with friends and family
Much as the internet has immense benefits for your child, it also exposes your child to danger. For instance, your child can be exposed to cyber bullies and other online predators.
According to an article by Diana Graber, you don’t have to conduct a study to know that young children under 13 are flocking to sites like Instagram, where they post and share photos with their friends.
“You don’t have to conduct a study to know that young children under 13 are flocking to sites like Instagram where they post and share photos with their friends.”
— Diana Graber, Raising Humans in a Digital World
How to ensure your child is safe online
So, how do you make sure that your child is safe online?
We live in an era where our children have a variety of means of communication to pick from. Unlike our parents, we are able to afford to buy gadgets for our children. These gadgets have enabled our children to access the internet at the palm of their hands.
Since social media has become a preferred means of communication, our children face the risk of social media oversharing and sexting. But, with proper precautions and supervision, your child can safely access the internet.
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Here are a few tips of how to ensure your child is safe online
- Set ground rules for internet usage
Discuss and set online behaviour rules with the whole family. Give your child the space to suggest rules that your family can commit to. This will enable your child to feel part and parcel of setting the ground rules.
Have an older child write the rules on a piece of paper and post it near the computer. This will serve as a reminder to everyone accessing the computer.
Avoid threatening your child with timeouts when they break the rules. Instead, tell them they will lose internet privileges when they break the rules. Set clear rules about what your child can and cannot do online. Be sure to remind them the importance of not sharing private information online.
Information that your child should not share include:-
- home address and where they live
- phone number
- their full name or other family members
- school name, class or class teacher
- names of classmates
- pictures of their school bus or bus route
- showing and sharing pictures
2. Central internet access point
Place computers that have access in a central location at home. This can be inside the sitting room where members of your family spend time together.
Placing computers in a central location can enable you to watch and monitor your child. This is not possible when your child can access internet inside their bedrooms. Your child can close inappropriate websites when you approach their private space.
Disable wireless internet and restrict internet access to our central wired computer. This will guarantee that everyone uses internet from your central access point.
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3. Disable computer cameras
Computer cameras, commonly known as webcams, are an ideal substitute for physical meetings. They are ideal for transmitting family occasions to loved ones living far away.
But left in your child’s unsupervised custody, your child can misuse it. This can be in the form of your child showing off their private body parts. Doing so can compromise their integrity and ruin their reputation forever.
You can avoid this by disabling your laptop’s webcam.
4. Beware of the dangers posed by online chatting
While online chatting is popular means of communication, chatting comes with risks. You may already have a rule that your child only contacts people they know in real life. But it is not guarantee that they commit to doing so.
As a result, your child may chat with strangers online and expose themselves to danger. It can expose your child to cyber bullies and all kinds of predators. Any forum where your child can access private messaging is risky.
Help your child to choose and take part in age appropriate activities. Help them to avoid engaging in forums that makes private messaging possible.
5. Monitor your browser history
It is no secret that there are various browsers available. Ensure you have one browser that the whole family uses. This can help in monitoring browser activity.
Check your browser frequently and closely monitor your child’s online behavior. This will enable you to notice when your child is engaging in unacceptable behavior. A cleared browser history is a sign that your child is engaging in suspicious activities.
After you have noticed your child’s favourite sites, start visiting them. Get to learn, experience and know your child’s favourite activities.
6. Notice red flags and take action
Is your child walking away from the computer after receiving a phone call? Are they nervous when you walk in and approach them while using the computer? Are they receiving gifts or online purchases that you didn’t order?
Do not disregard these red flags. These may be signs that you child is engaging with people they met online. Talk to your child and remind them about their safety online.
Engage your child about internet safety even when you know they are safe. Inquire about what their online activities, who they chat to and their experiences. By showing interest, you contribute to building your child’s trust and confidence.
Remember that your principal role as a parent is to keep your child safe. Do whatever it takes to ensure they are safe online. This may include setting time for internet use and restricting access to wired access to a central point in your sitting room.
Your child may become angry at you, but it is worth it. Lead by example by abiding with the internet access ground rules that your family has set. Avoid posting pictures of yourself (especially when it is not necessary), your child, sharing their names and their school.
James Ouma is a CTI Clarity Coach, Cyclist and Writer. He is passionate about positive masculinity and helping incarcerated male teens to reconcile with their families and their communities. He loves staring at his bicycle, flipping through movies without watching them, and playing ‘tap out’ with his wife.