March 31, 2021
For the past year, COVID-19 restrictions have required many kids to spend a significant amount of their day online. From daylong online learning sessions to evenings of social media and gaming, children are connected more than ever before.
For parents, this shift has resulted in an increasing urgency to keep kids safe while they are browsing the internet. Here are six things you can do to ensure the time your child spends online is as safe as possible:
A handful of clear ground rules can help stop a lot of dangerous behavior: no posting personal photos, never share personal information, don’t share passwords (other than with a parent), never meet up with someone you meet online, and report — and don’t respond — to any bullying or harmful messages. You can even print and post these rules near the computer or other devices your child uses to access the internet.
When your child is using their computer, smartphone, or tablet, have them do so in a common area so you or another adult can supervise. Keep an eye on their browsing history and your credit card statements for any unusual activity.
Even in today’s digitally connected world, it’s still important to create boundaries — particularly after school hours. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents balance free-time activities, and limit screen time so that children get plenty of sleep and physical exercise.
Don’t wait until there’s a problem to address online safety. Invest early in your child’s well-being by spending time together online: browse educational content, bookmark your child’s favorite websites so they are easy to visit, and engage in conversations about online content and safety. Proactive conversations make it easier for a child to come to you if they do come across content that requires an adult’s involvement.
Be sure to spend time specifically addressing bullying with your child. Cyberbullying is harassment that occurs online, and it is possible for your child to be both a target and an instigator. Anonymous profiles and the speed at which information spreads online can make cyberbullying common in children and teens. Help your children recognize the signs of bullying and understand the best course of action if they are targeted (don’t react, block the bully, and report it to an adult). And, make sure it’s clear what the consequences are if they are responsible for the bullying.
Even if you follow every other tip in this article, it’s impossible to keep an eye on your child’s online activities 100 percent of the time. So start any effort to protect your children online by establishing a dialogue: make sure children know you’re there to help them navigate the online world, that they can bring any objectionable content directly to you, and that if something seems off, they should check with you immediately.
Access to the internet gives children incredible opportunities: the ability to socialize with people around the world, access to educational content not available otherwise, and a virtual environment to explore and establish independence. Following these six tips will help ensure that experience is as safe as possible.