Your children are so precious. The are young and innocent and have no idea what sort of creeps are out in the world. Adults, on the other hand know better. We hear daily about weirdos online doing strange things. To keep your kids safe online, you need to follow some guidelines. If you do these things, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding an incident that may permanently scar your child for life.
- Keep Computers Public – Since my kids are 9 and 4, I don’t have them a mobile smart phone yet, so their only computer use is on a desktop, laptop or tablet. Privacy isn’t something they’ve earned yet, so I keep them using their devices in our office, at the kitchen table, or in the living room. I want to know what they’re doing online, and I want to check on them periodically to make sure they’re still doing that.
- Know What Games They Play – My kids love Minecraft and Roblox. They also love watching YouTube videos. YouTube scares me because anyone can put anything online. Minecraft is mostly harmless, but my daughter likes to play online. We watch her while she is online, knowing full well that anyone could say they’re 10 and start an account online. Minecraft servers are not very well policed, if at all. Stay in the conversation about what games they play online and make sure you’re okay with them.
- Turn Off Chat – Minecraft has a chat function for its online servers. Turn it off. No one gets to talk to my daughter online unless I know them. There are other chat platforms that are much safer, like Skype or Google Hangouts that keep history and allow you to govern who they connect with. Random chat with strangers online is a risk I’m not ready to take yet.
- Setup Parental Guards – Macs and PCs both have ways to setup computers so that a child’s account has a time limits and is protected from online content that may be objectionable to you. The browser can rank content. Better to err on the side of caution than to leave the internet wide open for your kids to peruse.
- Tablet Watching – Tablets are harder to police. They aren’t easily seen and are easier to hide. They need to be watched just as closely as a desktop or laptop. Random searches of the tablet can be useful. Learn how to see the programs that are open on your child’s tablet. That way, if they close what they’re doing quick and move to another program, its easy for you to find out what they’re up to. Kids are tricky, we’ve got to be smarter as parents to keep them safe.
- Parent/Kid Sit downs – Talk to your kids! Get them off their devices and talk to them about what is going on. It is your responsibility as their parent or guardian to hold them accountable for what they do online.
Be proactive and make sure you know what they’re doing online. Talk to them about it in non-accusing words. Let them know you love them and you care about them. Don’t scare them, just love them like your instincts lead you to. We have a unique challenge in our modern technology saturated world: how to protect our children online? Follow the steps above and share with me anything else you find out in the comments. I’d love to know about how to keep kids safe. It’s my responsibility as well.