Before we became parents, we were once children. However, our generation didn't spend time playing on computers and other electronic devices. Instead, we played hide and seek and other group sports with our neighbors and friends. We didn't know the internet until we're old enough; a huge contrast to our kids who probably know how to navigate to YouTube to watch their favorite cartoon show without needing us to help them.
Because the internet is now a huge (and probably inevitable) part of our lives, the responsibility to parent and raise smart children becomes way more challenging. Yes, the internet makes our lives (and those of our kids who are already in school) easier in many ways but that doesn't mean that we should let go of control and trust our kids to make the right decisions for themselves. The truth is no matter how beneficial online connectivity can be, it still poses a number of threats to our children. As parents, it's our duty to protect them from these threats. Here's how.
1. Be present and involve.
You know how your children can access countless websites online in a tap of the keyboard. It can mean danger since you can't be by their sides 24/7. With that said, it makes sense to sit down with them as much as it's possible as they surf the internet. Not only will it be a great opportunity to bond with them; it's also a perfect time to teach them about how to use the internet responsibly.
2. Set rules for using social networking sites.
Social networking sites help us stay connected with our children but they can also be a way for cyberbullies and predators to reach them. For this reason, we should set rules to keep them safe while their engaged in any social networking activity. This may include asking them to seek permission from us first before accessing their account, adding us as their friend, and also giving us their usernames and passwords on ALL social media accounts.
3. Keep their online activities monitored.
Install a parental software solution on all devices your children have access to so you can filter the content they view. Let them know that their activities are monitored and explain the reason behind such action. Stress how much you trust them but not the strangers who can reach them online so they don't end up wondering what they did wrong. If you need help with setting up parental controls, check with your Internet service provider or go online for free tutorials.
4. Teach them about the danger of "talking" to strangers.
Explain how anyone can be anyone they want to be online and how they shouldn't entertain any messages, friend requests, etc. from strangers (anyone online that they haven't met in real life) let alone attempt to get to know them. Discuss the tactics predators use and assure them that you're their friend and the best person to talk to about anything under the sun.
5. Be open about discussion regarding inappropriate content.
Some parents consider sex and pornography as topics that are taboo. Some don't but are unsure how to handle such conversation with their children. Whichever group you fall to, know that it's only a matter of time before your children stumble into anything inappropriate for their age online. Yes, parental controls can lessen their risk of exposure but there's still a chance that some questionable content may get through. This is why it's best to address these topics the soonest possible time. Explain your stand and beliefs regarding these to your children in the most loving and patient way possible so they'll know how to handle anything offensive that they come across with online.
We and our children live in a cyber world. We may have parental controls available to help us keep our children protected online even when we're not around but the best way to keep them safe is by being present in their lives, spending time to create real-life memories with them. This way, we can nurture their lives with our love and make them feel secured enough that they won't attempt to get to know a "stranger."