How can I protect my child from inappropriate sites? What if my child is chatting with someone whom they have never met, yet have come to trust over the internet? How can I educate my child to know whom to befriend and who might pose a risk? How will I know if my child is being cyber bullied and what can I do about it? Is there a way I can be aware of what my child is browsing on the internet?
These are just a few of the disturbing questions that concerned parents in today’s modern world face. The internet is full of scams, pedophiles appearing as friendly buddies, and freely available adult content.
Although it may seem like a nearly impossible task, there are ways you can protect your child. It will take vigilance and dedication on your part, but you can help him or her know whom to trust and who might be dangerous, who is a potential predator or a bad influence.
There are also tools you can use to keep an eye on your child or teenager’s internet activities without intruding too much on their privacy.
The first and foremost way you can protect your child from possible internet and social media dangers is through educating them. Parents are often surprised to find out how naïve their child is, especially if their child is a teenager and seems to be responsible and street-wise in other ways.
Be sure your child understands that the people they “meet” over the internet may or may not be who they say they are. If they are aware of the dangers, risks, and scams that are so prevalent on the internet, hopefully when they come in contact with one of these, an alarm bell will sound in their mind.
A convincing tactic is to read them stories of what has happened to other young people just like themselves when they trusted someone and it led to a dangerous situation. While we do not like to intentionally scare our children, it is better than it actually happening to them.
2. Rules and consequences
Making internet rules which must be adhered to is an important step. In order for rules to be kept, there must be consequences attached. These should be reasonable, yet enough of a deterrent so that your child does not want to risk having to be punished.
Consider posting the rules somewhere obvious so that you child can be easily and constantly reminded of them, and so that they can never say, “I didn’t remember”, or “It wasn’t clear to me.” Make it as easy for them as possible. Remember, you are not the bad guys—you are protecting them from the bad guys.
More often than not, child-parent issues can be solved with some good ol’ fashioned communication, especially with older children and teens. This principle holds true even in our modern world with all its modern gadgets.
If your child feels free to communicate with you, there is a much better chance of you being able to keep her safe and able to answer any questions she may have.
4. Educate yourself
Stay abreast of what your child is doing, who they are in touch with, what they are into, who they like to hang out with, as well as the lingo of the youth and what it all means.
Today’s youth have developed their own coded language, which many parents find amusing and don’t understand. While it is mostly innocent, it wouldn’t hurt to know some of the basic terms, such as “POS”, which means, “Parents looking over shoulder”, and “LMIRL” means, “Let’s meet in real life.” Obviously, if you ever see abbreviations such as these, they are hiding something and it’s time to have a good talk.
In the case of cyber bullying, knowing the signs is essential, as victims of cyber bullying are often too embarrassed to talk about it. Some signs include a sudden increase or decrease in the amount of time spent texting or online, withdrawing from social activities, and becoming sullen for no apparent reason.
5. Parental controls
Consider using software that allows you to monitor your child’s internet activity. This is especially helpful for teenagers who are not as prone to tell you everything that is going on in their lives.
For younger children, there is filtering software that you can install that will block any sites you choose, or even certain types of sites. Unfortunately, an innocent search by a young child can easily result in them landing on a child predator site, or a site with inappropriate content. Take every measure necessary to keep your child safe.
Parental monitoring software can also be used as a deterrent for teenagers. For example, “If you continue to break the rules, I will put this software on your computer so you won’t be able to access certain sites until I know I can trust you again.”
6. Computer placement
As much as possible, try to place the computer that your child uses in a public area of the house. This way you can more easily monitor your child’s online activities. A teenager may balk at a rule like this, but if it protects them from danger, it is worth it.
In the end, as a good parent, you have to do what is in the best interest of your child, whether or not she (especially if your child is a ‘tween or teenager) fully grasps the gravity of the situation. Children will be children, and they will not always completely comprehend the possible ramifications of their actions until they are much, much older. Therefore, you must decide what is best for them, lay down some firm yet reasonable rules, and be sure to follow through on them.