Twenty-seven years after the internet came into the world, technology and internet connectivity have become ever-present and increasingly necessary in our daily lives, finding the right to introduce your children to the larger internet, as well as finding ways to safeguard your children while they surf the web, are still common concerns. More than anything, every parent wants to ensure that their children can have access to information while avoiding unsavory and downright dangerous traps that far too many children fall into.
When is the Best Time to Introduce Small Children to the Internet?
By the time your kids can speak, they have been exposed to the internet countless times. Videos, touch-screen games, and online music are all a part of their daily activities, and they are already conditioned to consider the computer, tablets, and phones as bastions of entertainment. The best time to introduce children to the internet as a tool is entirely up to you as parent.
Many kids begin using educational online game apps like ABC Mouse and Nick Jr. when children are old enough to understand the material, usually between ages 2 and 4. Sites designed for children can be the limit of their early exposure and teach them to navigate and explore websites safely.
By regulating the ways in which your children access the internet, you can exhibit greater control over the content that they come in contact with. When you think that the time is right to allow your child to browse and use the internet, follow these basic guidelines:
- Sit down with your children and watch how they interact and engage with content
- Keeping their online sessions to limited time frames at designated times of the day
- Age-appropriate sites are designed to be safe for children to explore, and it is a great way to introduce the internet as a learning and education tool
- Use lock screen options on smartphones, tablets and computers to safeguard against them opening unapproved websites or accessing your personal emails and content
Use Parental Controls
Setting up parental controls may not be a quick task, but it is definitely a necessary step to making the internet a safer space for you children to explore. Unfortunately, even an innocent search for “Disney Princesses” can yield some startling pornographic results when you do not have safe searches and parental controls activated.
- If you use a Mac, start your parental control setup here: https://support.apple.com/en-au/HT201813
- If you use a PC, start your parental control setup here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-10/set-up-family-after-upgrade
Keep the Family Computer Monitored and In-Sight
When it comes to the internet, setting up time limits and specified times for accessing the internet can become just another house rule. Some families choose to lock computers and password protect them to ensure that children are not on the internet unsupervised. Along the lines of supervising, keep the computer in a family-centered location in the home, where you can more easily monitor your children’s internet activities and be sure that they are obeying the time and place rules. This also allows you to be your child’s go-to person should they encounter anything on the internet that they do not understand or makes them uncomfortable.
Monitoring Older Children
As children get older and have phones or laptops of their own, it is harder to monitor what they encounter on the internet. There are some things that you can do to keep the older ones safe as well, and it all starts with teaching children how to safely navigate the internet.
Discuss privacy with your children and explain to them the importance of safeguarding their passwords and social media sites. Privacy starts by having a safe email address which does not use the child’s name. Email addresses can be as creative as they like, but should not reveal any personal information. Furthermore, show your child how to set up privacy features on their social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, including skipping adding their personal details like their address, their phone number, or their age.
When it comes to privacy, it is important that you let your children know that you will be checking in on their internet activity. Checking in with children also allows you to note if they are involved in cyber bullying, have been contacted by potential predators, or have posted personal photos and videos which could endanger them. Check which sites they visit, get to know the people that they are talking to, and that they are remaining safe and making healthy choices on the internet.
Good internet smarts are learned early on, and the sooner you sit down with your children and explain both the dangers and benefits of internet browsing, the better prepared they will be to make wise decisions while online.