Kids today have almost unfettered access to the internet, with children as young as seven or eight being given their first smartphones. As a parent, it can be difficult to keep up with what your child is doing on their phones, what they are accessing and who they are talking to. This is why you need to ensure that you have made a concerted effort to teach your children how they can keep themselves safe online. Technology is great, of course it is, but it isn’t without its pitfalls, and as a parent, it is your job to make your children aware of them. Let’s get into it.
Learning Your Way Around Their Tech
How can you possibly expect to teach your children how to stay safe online when using their devices if you don’t know how to use them yourself? Luckily for parents today, most devices have parental controls that you can set up in order to ensure that your children cannot access any content that you think will be inappropriate for them. There is plenty of content and apps that require the user to be over the age of eighteen; for example, as an adult, you could use your smartphone to view adult content or even gamble online at a site like Jackpot Casino, but obviously, you don’t want your children to be able to do this.
Whenever you have a device that you are giving to a young child, it is important to set up these controls or whatever else they have, like Samsung’s‘ kids mode’. You should also think about disabling any linked payment methods to avoid surprise bills. It is also worth considering what apps are preloaded onto the device. They are unlikely to need all of the ones that the device comes with. If you don’t want to or are unable to delete some of them, but you do not want your child to access them, then consider putting them in a secure or locked folder that they can’t access without a password. Other than that, you are likely going to want to download some of the apps that you are happy with your child having and making regular checks to ensure that they haven’t downloaded anything else.
Kids & Social Media
Children tend to love apps that provide them with hours of content to consume, and, for the most part, these apps tend to be within the social media family. Now, social media isn’t necessarily a bad thing for children to be on, but of course, there are unsavoury aspects. Unfortunately, not all of the content on there is appropriate for younger users. Some social media platforms do have an algorithm in place which is meant to weed out inappropriate content to ensure that the content shown is customised to the demographic viewing it, although it isn’t foolproof.
As a general, sweeping statement, social media is not appropriate for children. However, there are nuances to be aware of too. It is worth doing some research online to learn more about the social media platforms that your child has expressed an interest in. Most platforms do have settings that you can adjust to ensure that content posted is private, meaning that it cannot be viewed by strangers. You may also be able to limit the content that they can view and set up screen time limits for each app, preventing your child from spending too much time on them.
Children love to test the boundaries to see what they can get away with. As a parent, it is up to you to set and enforce these boundaries to demonstrate what acceptable behaviour is. When it comes to the internet and different device, their behaviour offline is just as important. This is why you really should think about setting a few boundaries and ground rules in regard to both their online and offline behaviour.
Firstly, as mentioned above, you should establish what constitutes an acceptable amount of screen time. This could apply to individual apps or to the device as a whole. Think about the other responsibilities that they have. Maybe they have more screen time at weekends to go with their extra free time, whereas maybe during the week, they have less because they have homework and other responsibilities like clubs to go to. Staring at a screen for too long can be damaging to a child’s development; however, there are also a lot of apps out there which can aid in it. It is all about striking the right balance.
Next, you might want to consider where you are going to allow them to use the device and where it is banned. Do you want them to use it without your supervision? Are you going to let them take the device out of the house? This is entirely up to you, of course; however, it is advised that you try to keep the devices out of their bedrooms at night. Children and teens need more sleep than adults, and the blue light emitted by electronic devices can disrupt the body’s sleep cycle by blocking the body’s production of melatonin. This is why you should implement a no phones or devices before bed rule.
Respecting their Privacy
As your child grows up, they are entitled to a little privacy; as a parent, you should respect this. That being said, there again is a balance here. They do deserve a little privacy and respect, but you are also entitled to encroach on this to keep them safe. In the end, it comes down to how you go about checking up on them. If you are sneaky and do it behind their backs, then, of course, they are going to be hurt and upset and rightfully so.
If you have any causes for concern, simply ask them if you can access their phone or have a conversation whereby you tell them that you are going to and why. You can install spyware that is designed to monitor activity on your child’s device, but again this is sneaky and underhanded unless, of course, you are upfront with them that you have done it and your reasons for doing so. Ensuring that you can have these open and honest conversations with your children is key if you want to continue to have a good relationship with them, whereby both parties are comfortable being honest and open with each other and demonstrating mutual respect.
Whether or not you think they are twee or overly cautious, age ratings are there for a reason. Pay attention to them and make sure that you are adhering to them, especially if you are not going to be around. If you enjoy computer games and you like to play them from time to time, then you could play with your kids as long as you are monitoring the content and judging what is appropriate or not. Otherwise, you should try to ensure that your children are always consuming age-appropriate content, whether this is online or not.
Technological advancements have been truly transformative for many different aspects of modern life. However, growing up with such access to the internet and the constant consumption of content is hard to navigate because most parents didn’t grow up with this much technology – or at the very least, it wasn’t as prevalent. Striking a balance between allowing your child access to these things and safeguarding their mental health and brain development is not always easy, admittedly. One of the best things that you can do is to encourage dialogue; you want your children to be able to talk to you openly and honestly and vice versa.