When you decide to become a parent, you also accept the trillions of challenges involved in raising kids. And it was challenging enough already, until technology and the internet stepped into our lives and the list of risks that children can be exposed to expanded. Nowadays parents need to address a whole new growing challenge, and that is how to manage the interactions between their children, technology and the internet.
We don't have to go too far back in time to remember when such a concern was new. Only a few years ago the safety advice for parents was to place the home computer in a room where they could monitor what their child was doing.
But now this advice is dated. In the era of connected smart devices, parents need to adopt new strategies to help their kids stay safe online. This need for a new strategy is the direct result of this new lifestyle, where we create a new, digital alter-ego that lives in a separate, virtual space. So, in other words, along with being streetwise you'll also need to educate them to be ‘cyberwise’.
The good news is that keeping our children safe online should not be difficult. The basis of everything, however, is to be aware that being connected also brings risks with it, so protection requires some technical knowledge but communication is just as pivotal to achieving this goal.
Understanding the Risks
As kids already know from an early age, the internet is that magical place where answers to any question can be found, coloring pages of favorite superheroes can be printed, and tutorials for Lego models can be watched and so much more.
What children don't know about at this stage is cyber criminals, viruses, phishing, online privacy… pretty much anything about internet safety. So as a parent or guardian it's your job to inform them about the various risks that they are exposing themselves and their family to when visiting a website or launching an app.
It’s typical to allow kids access to smartphones to let them download and play games, which is alright in itself but, as you may already know, free games usually sell extra lives, power ups, and more for real cash. You may have heard horror stories about huge credit card bills due to these in-app purchases, so it’s important to let your kids know what these purchases actually are.
If used for malicious purposes, the abundance of communication channels can serve as channels for cyber bullying. The abuse of messaging through such channels might leave the users vulnerable and children might not know how to deal with this situation.
Most social networks require the child to be 13 or older to register, but parents often teach their children to lie about their age. What they forget, however, is that social media is also an environment for adults, so they are also exposing the child to various networks – which could lead to posting comments or creating a reputation they might regret later on.
Strangers can easily reach out to your child and build an emotional connection with them to gain trust for purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation. With the anonymity of the internet, it’s now much easier than ever before.
How to Use Technology to Protect Your Children's Digital Life
Every new device now includes a feature called parental control, which gives the parent a way to filter the type of content that children can access when online. Since no system is bulletproof, it is strongly recommended that parents sit down with their children frequently and talk about the risks of digital life and the measures that they can take to protect themselves.
The most popular feature of parental controls is the option to block malicious or inappropriate sites using a safe search filter. Beyond these built-in options, though, there are also third party parental control apps such as Qustodio, Kaspersky Safe Kids, Net Nanny, and more, all of which offer additional tools to monitor the kids' online activity and protect them.
Use a Password Manager to Protect Online Accounts
Alongside using search engines specifically designed for kids, you should explain to children right from the start the importance of not using the same password for every account they create. Our advice is for them is to use long phrases from their favorite books as passwords because it's easier to remember them.
However, as the number of accounts build up, a good option to manage your child's and even the whole family's digital life – online accounts, bank accounts, credit card info, secure notes, and more – is to use a password manager. There are password managers that are family-friendly, with additional features to suit groups of family and friends, while also bringing down the price for each individual user.
Happy browsing, and stay safe!
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