5 Steps You Can Take to Protect Kids Online

The online world is fascinating and full of wonders for little kids. However, as much as it can be an infinite source of knowledge and fun, it can also prove to be pretty dangerous if one does not take the necessary steps to ensure their safety online. For this reason, kids should be aware of the possible dangers they may encounter online and they should also know how to avoid them. Even so, kids will be kids. Their curious nature may lead them tο be exposed to inappropriate or even harmful content. So, what can you do to protect kids online?

1. Talk, talk, talk and then talk some more!

It may seem obvious, but talking with your kids is an essential step not only to ensure that they know how to use the internet safely, but also to create a relationship of trust with them. You don’t need – and you’d better avoid – making a lecture on the dangers they may come across. Simply discussing with them, asking about what they like doing online, expressing interest in their activities and sharing your experience could be of great help. Thus, you will have opportunities to make your point without them feeling that they are being preached. Be open to discussion and prepared to calmly answer questions you may find disturbing. Kids should feel that they can tell you everything without being afraid that they will be punished. This way you will rest assured that if they stumble upon online content or contacts that upset them, your little ones will immediately ask for your help.

2. Set specific rules and make sure they are followed

This is a step not only to protect kids online, but also to shape a correct behavior towards using screens from a young age. Rules may refer to the time they can spend online or when and where they are allowed to use the internet. They may also be about whether they should ask for permission before going online, whether they can use the internet when an adult is not around, what sites they can visit, etc. To make it official and more interesting for kids, you can even make a screen contract with them.

protect kids online
Photo by Biljana Jovanovic

3. Create a safe environment on the computer or mobile device your kids use

How could a computer be safe for kids? For example, you can set up an account for your kid on your computer and make sure that the programs you install on that account are kid-friendly. There are specific browsers and search sites that block content that may be harmful for kids. This way kids can search for information for their homework, without you worrying that they may come across inappropriate content. There are also e-mail services that let you manage your kid’s contacts, so you can block any unknown contact. Also, check an app’s privacy policy, rules and community standards before letting your kid use it. You can find detailed instructions on how to choose the safest apps for kids here. You might also want to check these things along with your kids, so that they know what to review in an app before downloading it.

4. Tools and settings to use

Nowadays, almost every device includes a number of settings that aim to protect kids online. Take advantage of these settings (e.g. privacy settings or parental controls) to make the device even safer for your kids. You should also make sure to disable one-click payment options and block in-app purchases, so that there is no possibility that your kid makes a purchase accidentally.

5. … or not to use!

There are also a lot of surveillance apps you can use to check what your kids are doing online. Although these apps may offer you a sense of security, using them secretly may make your kids feel that you do not trust them enough and thus it will be harder for them to come to you in case anything goes wrong while they are online. If you need to use such apps, you’d better discuss with your kids, explain why you have to use them and clarify that you still believe that they are responsible and will behave accordingly. Don’t forget! After all, it’s all about trust and safety!

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