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How to ensure your child’s online presence is safe

How to ensure your child’s online presence is safe

We live in a connected world, quite literally. You almost can’t function without a personal cellular device and computer. They are how you communicate with family, friends, work colleagues, and more. Not to mention that you use them to access modern entertainment, pursue education, and keep up with current events.

Because of how connected the world is today, your child will be interested in technology at an early age. They might want a phone because all of their friends do. They may be asking for consoles to play the latest video game. Whatever their reasoning is, your job as a parent is to help them be safe when spending time online.

While there are countless beneficial uses of the internet, there are also legitimate dangers that should be recognized. Your child won’t be able to understand these concerns right away. That’s why you should take the following steps to ensure their online presence is safe until they have a greater understanding.

1. Use Technology Developed for Children

Sooner or later your child will start clamoring for their own electronic gadgets. Deciding when to trust them with a personal device is tricky enough. You also have to decide what sort of technology they are ready to possess.

Luckily for you and parents everywhere, there are devices made especially with kids in mind. For example, a kids phone lets children call and text but lacks most other features. Some such phones block social media sites, while others lack an app store entirely.

These types of devices are constructed specifically to keep children safe from inappropriate online content. A starter phone or tablet can teach them how to use technology without providing access to every single corner of the web. As kids grow and mature, they can upgrade to products with fewer restrictions. 

2. Set Clear Boundaries

When your child gets their very first device, you need to set clear boundaries from day one. If they don’t follow these rules, they can expect to lose their internet privileges.

Boundaries should focus on internet safety. Instruct your children to never share their personal information online. They should ask permission to access the internet until they’re old enough to do so responsibly. They should also speak online the same way they should speak in person: respectfully and properly.

Rules must have consequences, which will give you the leverage to teach important lessons should your child make mistakes. Be sure to let your child know that boundaries are set to teach and protect them, not just to be a hindrance.

3. Teach and Lead by Example

Children are very impressionable. They learn a lot by mimicking the words and actions of those around them. Since they spend so much time with you, their parent, you carry the primary responsibility to lead by example.

Take a moment to evaluate your personal internet safety. Do you have a wide variety of passwords? Can you easily recognize and avoid scams? Are you careful about the information that you share on the internet? These are habits that your kids need to learn and won’t be able to if you aren’t practicing them as well.

An additional bonus is that your own online presence will be safe as you guide your children. Identity theft and fraud can be serious problems. Keep yourself safe, and you can protect your kids as well.

4. Take Extra Precautions

When it comes to online safety, setting up a few extra safety precautions never hurts. You can’t expect to monitor your child’s internet use around the clock. What you can do is set up a few roadblocks that can stop them from going out of bounds.

A common safety precaution parents use is parental controls. These allow you to block certain websites, TV channels, and even keywords on Google searches. These restrictions will protect your children from sites with dangerous content and any viruses or scams that often come with it.

Another thing you can do is set time limits on personal devices. You can do this using an app that restricts device use after a certain time. You can also physically limit access to devices. For instance, you can keep cell phones and tablets with you at night when kids are unsupervised.

5. Know What Your Child Is Doing

Helicopter parenting is sometimes more harmful than it is helpful. However, knowing what your child is doing online is a key part of keeping them safe. You don’t have to read every message or view every page in their browser history. You do need to be aware of any places they hang out in online that could be dangerous.

Trust is a key component here. If you and your child share mutual trust, it’s a lot easier to talk about these topics. If you’re too aggressive, kids can become withdrawn and creep around the internet as a form of rebellion.

That said, it may be necessary to be a little extra involved. Until your child is mature enough, you might require them to share their usernames and passwords with you. If you need to monitor their social media use, you will be able to do so.

Online safety is an everyday battle. With more and more daily tasks and events being performed online, maintaining a safe online presence is more important than ever. If you raise your child to be aware of online safety, they’ll more effectively protect themselves in the years to come.

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