With over 4 billion users around the world, needless to say, the Internet has found its place in our everyday lives over the past two decades.
Statistics show that on average, Millennials and Generation Z spend around 4 hours per day on the Internet. Keep in mind that this includes teenagers as well, or even younger children. An even more worrying fact is that some studies show that 85 percent of mothers use technology to keep their children busy. And while the Internet can be informative, fun, and very useful, it’s also a place that can be inappropriate or even severely dangerous for the children.
Your child can see everything, from good to the worst things on the Internet, and has it ever occurred to you to check his/her online activity? If not, you are not the only one, because almost 70 percent of parents never do this. And it kind of makes sense, as even our children have the right to privacy. However, it’s crucial to their wellbeing that you are aware of the dangers that the Internet poses and how it can impact their emotional and even physical health.
So, can you really protect your child on the Internet, and if yes how?
1. Set Up Rules for Using a Smartphone
When did you get your first smartphone? Apparently, on average, nowadays children get their first smartphone at the age of ten. And while this does, in fact, have numerous benefits, it can also be very dangerous. In order to protect your child, there are a few possible solutions, including downloading a parental control app. These apps can be beneficial in many ways. For example, they can limit your child’s usage, determine their location, or monitor their calls and messages. However, the best way to protect your child is to set up good examples, yourself.
2. Set Up Parental Control for Streaming TV & Gaming
With the help of Smart TVs and streaming platforms, watching your favorite movie has become easier than ever before. And not only for you, but for the younger audience as well. And yes, streaming content can be very beneficial for your children, especially documentaries or educational programs, however, depending on the age, your kid might also be exposed to the age-inappropriate content. Similar to this, video games, as some of the most fun activities for kids, are also many times age-inappropriate. Many of them include nudity or violent content. Additionally, many video games have chats or allow voice calls which can be dangerous, exposing your kid to harassment and cyber bullying.
So, again, the best thing you can do is to adjust the parental control settings on your streaming or gaming devices. Besides, try talking to your children and explain to them why they should be more careful when engaging in these online conversations.
3. Use VPN for Privacy & Information Security
Sometimes even we, adults, cannot protect ourselves from malware, viruses, or even more serious problems such as identity thefts, let alone our children. Many of us know just how dangerous the Internet can be, but they don’t. And that’s why children are usually the target. They are tricked into sharing personal information, including credit card details. The worst part is that there are countless ways to do this. Hackers usually use downloadable games or movies that can place viruses on your computer and steal your information. Fortunately, there is a solution.
For online threats, such as third parties and hackers, the best thing that you can do is use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN allows you and your family to use the Internet carefree. It will anonymize you and encrypt all of your Internet traffic. This way, stealing your private information will be much more difficult, if not impossible. Besides, a VPN can be used on any device you have that can be connected to the Internet. You should also consider installing the VPN on your home router. This way, from smartphones, to TV and gaming consoles, everything in your house can be protected.
Also, you should use a strong antivirus and an ad-blocker, which will remove all the potential malicious commercials that your kid might run into.
4. Keep an Eye on Cyberbullying & Online Predators
One in 25 children has been solicited for offline contact by these so-called online predators. They use social media, emails, or text messages to stay in touch with the children they are targeting. As a matter of fact, more than 70 percent of online encounters with sexual predators begin in these chat rooms. This fact is horrifying and it makes you wonder whether you are doing your best to protect your child, and is this even entirely possible? In order to prevent something bad from happening, make sure you notice all the signs your child is showing. Your kid might get moody, withdrawn, distracted, and very secretive. It’s important to notice this on time.
Apart from online predators, a much more common threat to your child is cyberbullying. The problem with this is that no one takes it seriously, however, it has proven to be one of the causes for suicide in kids. So, what should you do if your child is being bullied? First of all, ask gentle questions about the situation and offer support and understanding. Encourage your child to do the same for others that are a victim of bullying. Document the cyberbullying by taking screenshots of this abusive behavior and then report it to the bully’s school or parents (or in some cases to the authorities). Make sure your child also knows the dangers of posting harmful content on the Internet or even liking it.
Both cyberbullying and online predator threats usually happen on social media, therefore it’s very important to keep an eye on your child’s social media profiles.
Overall, it is crucial to talk to your child about everything that was mentioned above. Inform them about the lurking threats on the Internet, tell them how dangerous giving personal information can be, advise them on the importance of using a strong password or avoiding inappropriate content. But, above all, discuss cyberbullying and online predators with them. Our children are like sponges, they collect all the information they run into. So let’s make sure that this information is positive, rather than negative. It’s the only way for them to grow into wonderful individuals. Put your child’s safety and well-being above all else.