As adults, we recognize the powerful capabilities the Internet provides. We can communicate, purchase, view, and share almost instantly. With this growing interconnectivity, collaborators can seamlessly exchange ideas and pave the way for revolutionary breakthroughs in a wide array of fields and practices.
But what does this mean for our children?
According to statistics provided by the San Diego County District Attorney, over 45 million children ages 10-17 use the Internet. Of these 45 million, one in five have been sexually solicited and one in four have encountered unwanted pornography. Sixty percent of children have received emails or instant messages from strangers.
Half of those who have been solicited have replied.
Internet crime is the widest spreading crime in the United States, and children are the fastest growing victim pool. As a parent, you play a vital role in educating your child how to safely use the Internet. Here are six ways you can nurture good cyber habits in your children:
1. Create separate user logins
Creating separate user logins can help ensure your child won’t accidentally delete or modify any of your files. Set parental controls to narrow their search field, decreasing their risk of stumbling upon harmful or inappropriate sites.
2. Place computers and other devices in common areas
Keeping family devices in the family room or other common areas of your home will help dissuade children from exploring dangerous sites and also give you the opportunity to intervene if you notice potentially harmful behaviors.
3. Spend time online with your children
Just as you may sit down to watch television together, consider making web surfing a family-bonding activity. Safe searching techniques are critical skills any child can benefit from learning. You can even make it fun by searching for your child’s favorite television episodes or games. Always remember to set your Google search filter to “safe.”
4. Establish reasonable time and usage limits
Technology has solidified itself in the core of everyday life. More than 90% of schools in the United States are connected to the Internet, meaning your child will likely surf the web for schoolwork. Consider establishing reasonable time and usage limits for activities that are non-academic, such as watching videos or playing games.
5. Instruct your children to avoid sharing personal information
Explain to your children why they should never share personal information (including birthdays, phone numbers, addresses, personal photos, etc.) with anyone on the Internet. “Face-to-face” meetings should also be a no-go.
6. Be their go-to
Children may be afraid to approach you if they fear their Internet privileges are in jeopardy. Carefully express that their safety is your biggest concern and that you’re there to help them work through problems. Promising not to overreact when confronted with a problem will help you build trust with your child while simultaneously keeping them safe.
There are also many tools, such as content filters and browser settings, that can help control some of what your children can see online. Make sure you do your research and understand the specifics of what these tools are (and are not) doing.