At this day and age, almost every home have a personal computer used by the entire family. We have access to and we can use and interact with different kinds of media available to us today.
Children these days are much more tech-savvy — they also have access to gadgets, tablet computers, smartphones, mobile devices and even technologies and services that cater to our ever-changing needs.
Based on an infographic released by statistics portal Statista.com, nearly 1 in 5 kids (0-to-8-year olds) in the US use mobile devices daily. At least 14 percent use computers while a good 17 percent use a mobile device; 7 percent use handheld video games while 6% use video game consoles.
Even toddlers and children below 2 years old who are not even old enough to speak or write are given access to mobile devices by their parents.
Nearly 44 percent of kids under 17 years of age (most are tweens) own their own smartphones.
Technology, particularly the Internet, poses differents risks and threats to unaware or inexperienced users like kids and teens. Cyberbullying, child pornography, online predators, data and identity theft are just some of the threats that can harm kids whenever they go online unsupervised and without guidance from older Internet users.
Aside from safety and privacy, parents should also be concerned with other risk factors resulting from use of smartphones by children — overuse and addiction, distraction from school and relationships, exposure to sexting, among others.
As responsible digital citizens, parents and guardians have the primary task of maintaining the online safety of their family and children.
Using the Internet can be a fun and educational experience for kids. It can also be a cool family bonding activity. For this to happen, kids and tweens should feel safe online. Parental guidance and supervision is a must when it comes to minors using the Internet.
There are basic family safety measures that should be observed when using the Internet:
Protect your hardware. Make sure your desktop computer, laptop, tablet computer, smartphones and mobile devices have proper and up-to-date protection. Install anti-virus, anti-phishing and anti-malware software. Be in the know about the latest online threats. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Discuss online safety to your kids. Even the busiest parents should inform and educate their children about online safety and security. Kids should not go online at their own risk.
Limitations, filters and safety protocols should be in place. Kid-safe the computers, laptops and gadgets that kids have access to.
Regularly discuss with them the importance of internet safety. Kids should at the least, know the basics on how to protect themselves from phishing, data and identity theft and cyberbullying.
Tell them that the rule ‘Don’t talk to strangers’ also apply online. Facebook friends that they just met online are still strangers.
Always remind children to refrain from sending messages, photos or replying to online users that they do not personally know; not to share or divulge passwords of online accounts to anyone; not to share any personal information about himself or herself or anyone from the family to people they do not know; not to accept files or open email or message attachments from unknown people; and not to post home address online.
Set reasonable rules agreeable to all. Parents should set clear Internet safety guidelines at home. The first step to realize this is to set limitations on Internet usage.
But don’t be a major spoilsport. Make sure that everyone in the household knows about the ground rules. It is best to discuss it with your children and household members first so they are fully aware and they clearly understand why there are limitations and controls on Internet usage.
Once you talk to your kids about Internet usage at home, set agreeable terms on how long they can stay online. Place the desktop or laptop computer in a common area in your house so adults can supervise and monitor kids whenever they are using the computer.
Set parental controls. This is basic but always necessary. Always enable privacy and security settings. Make sure to check the age restrictions of online services. There are certain services and apps that require 18+ age for registered users. Use age-appropriate apps and softwares especially for kids. There are many kid-safe Internet browsers available online. Google has Safe Search for Kids while Youtube allows users to enable the Safety Mode. Remember to turn off location or GPS services across all devices and apps.
Limit access to only approved apps and games on mobile devices. There are many available kid-friendly browsers for mobile devices. You can install them for your child’s use. Be sure to install internet filtering sofwares to block or prevent access to illicit online material or adult content.
Observe online etiquette and responsible communication. Teach kids on how to properly communicate online. Tell them that whatever they send, post or upload online stays online, forever. In 2014, a survey found that 49 percent of young people have expressed regret over something that they have posted online. Discuss and agree on family guidelines about appropriate online communication. ###