The internet: is there another invention that makes our lives easier and more complicated at the same time? It gives us access to worlds of information, offers nearly unlimited entertainment and connects us instantly with far-away loved ones. It also has the potential to expose us to misinformation, questionable content and bad actors. The internet can be a tricky place for adults to navigate—let alone children. And while keeping kids safe online can feel like a daunting task for parents, there are a few easy ways you can help protect your family. Here are the top five things you can do to keep your kids safer online:
Talk about online safety—openly and often
An open dialogue is one of the most effective tools you have for keeping your kids safe online. We hear it from safety experts again and again: it’s important that your kids feel like they can come to you if they see something upsetting or run into trouble online—and that means you have to cultivate a dialogue around digital safety. From cyberbullying to misinformation to unsavory strangers, there is a lot to cover. That can feel daunting, but know that you don’t have to tackle it all at once. You can make it a weekly or monthly discussion, and you can even let your kids pick topics that they’re curious about. The more you talk about online safety, the better prepared you and your kids will be to face any situation that arises.
Monitor your child’s online activity
Even if your child is only using apps that you’ve already vetted, it’s important to check in on the regular and keep an eye on their online activity. After all, inappropriate content has been known to show up on a seemingly safe platform like YouTube Kids. When younger children are watching videos online, it’s a good idea to skip the headphones. That way, if Dora the Explorer starts swearing, you can quickly intervene.
If your kids are old enough to be playing online games like Roblox or Minecraft, make a habit of reviewing their contacts regularly to make sure you know and trust who they’re talking to online. Many parents want to strike a balance, and allow their children some autonomy online—but it’s important to keep a close watch on their activity when kids are just learning the ropes of the internet. Platforms like Bark or Circle can also help you keep an eye on your kids’ online activity. And as kids prove themselves responsible, more freedom can be granted.
Control who your child connects with
In 2021, Thorn released a startling report confirming that kids and teens regularly receive “abuse, harassment or sexual solicitation from adults on tech platforms.” The problem is pervasive on Snap, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, and parents need to be cognizant of the dangers that exist on any open platform where there’s a chat function. Luckily, most games and apps feature privacy settings that can prevent strangers from sending you DMs—but even with the strictest settings, parents should check in regularly.
Protect your kid’s data and digital footprint
You can’t necessarily control what data a platform collects, but you can definitely control what you post online. As part of your ongoing chats about online safety (see point one!), you should help kids understand that everything they post online is permanent and—in most cases—public. A good rule of thumb? If you wouldn’t wear it on a t-shirt around town, don’t post it online!
Enjoy technology together
Keeping kids safe online can be fun, too! One of the easiest ways to help kids learn to be good digital citizens is by getting involved in their online lives. It’s important to find opportunities to use tech together. And when your kid gets really excited about Fortnite or Among Us, ask them questions, get them to demonstrate—and try playing alongside them. Oftentimes, kids are eager to be the experts and teach parents about the tech they love. Once you’ve spent some time playing with them, you’ll probably feel more confident letting them enjoy those tech platforms independently. And, you might just find your next new hobby!
If you’re looking for a kid-friendly platform that you can enjoy together with the family, download Kinzoo for free on iOS and Android.
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