MONITORING YOUR KIDS INTERNET USAGE
Did you know . . .according to a Netmums poll 29% of parents allow their children to use the Internet without any supervision.
Internet safety expert Terry Cutler says that helping parents understand they can't be passive is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to Internet safety for kids. "We have to start at the basics," said Mr. Cutler, especially for social media. He has developed an entire Internet safety course that's focused on helping close the information gap between parents and kids so that the lines of communication open up.
No matter how many privacy settings you select or security software that's installed, there's no substitute for parental monitoring. You can start the process by having a frank discussion with your kids about their Internet use.
Questions You Should Ask Your Kids About Online Activity
The first step to becoming a more active participant in your child's online life is by talking to them about their Internet activity. It's important to approach the conversation as information sharing rather than an inquisition. Be upfront about the fact that you want to take on a more active role in their Internet usage - not because you don't trust them, but because there are a lot of dangers they may come across.
Questions to ask include:
- How much time do you spend on online each day or using apps on a device?
- What are your favorite websites?
- What do you do online for fun?
- Have you ever felt uncomfortable or uneasy by someone that contacted you?
- What kind of precautions do you take when creating passwords?
- What devices do you use?
- What are you doing to be careful and protect yourself when you're online?
- Do you think it's important to protect yourself online?
Finish the conversation by letting your kids know that if they have any questions or concerns that they can always come to you. It's critical to keep the conversation going and not let things end with this initial discussion.
Be Active Online With Them
Now that you have a better idea of what it is your kids like to do online, it's time to get more involved. Here are some of the recommended ways for parents to interact with their kids on the Internet:
- Have them teach you how to do things online or how to play their favorite game.
- If you have an older kid on social media get them to help you set up accounts if you haven't done so already.
- Follow them and friend them on social media.
- Watch online videos together.
- Share cool things you find online with them.
Monitor Their Internet Use
There is a lot of debate about how closely parents should monitor their kids Internet use. While it's not advisable to look at a digital diary or their friends' accounts, parents should keep up with their kids' online activities no matter how old they are. Teacher Lisa Marie Tellez's child is only 5 years old, but already she is keeping an eye on her son's Internet use and teaching safety. "I have told my child to let me know if another site pop's up or he accidentally goes to another site."
It's best to let your kids know up front that you will be occasionally monitoring Internet use to ensure there have been no security breaches or inappropriate use. There will probably be push back from older kids, but monitoring is the #1 way to protect kids online and your own financial security.
You can monitor online activity and safety breaches with computer virus detection software from providers like McAfee. Shield Genie is another piece of computer software that can be used to monitor activity, and it sends alerts if dangerous behavior is detected. Checking the history in the Internet browser is another way to see which websites have been accessed and when. You can also install apps on your phone and/or tablet to track Internet activity on mobile devices.
Create Internet Rules for Kids
You wouldn't let your kids overload on sugar or junk food, and the Internet is exactly the same. Kids need guidelines and limitations to reduce the likelihood of getting into trouble online.
Limit Internet Use - Today kids spend hours every day on the Internet. Specify a maximum time limit for non-school related activities. Also establish when Internet time can occur, such as during a certain time of day, after all homework is done, etc.
Lay Ground Rules for Devices - Discuss which devices they can use and which ones are off limits. You may also need to specify which devices they need to get your approval to use.
Create a Password Policy - Weak passwords are a huge Internet safety concern. Provide guidelines for passwords that should be used every time an account is created.
Have an Approval Process for Purchases and Sign Ups - Plenty of scammers target kids as a way to tap into their parent's financial information. Lay ground rules that establish all purchases have to be made by you.
Establish Punishments for Breaking the Rules - Signify the importance of the Internet rules by also establishing punishments for breaking them.
"1 IN 20 CHILDREN– HAS ARRANGED A SECRET MEETING WITH SOMEONE THEY MET ONLINE."
- NETMUMS SURVEY OF 825 KIDS
Teaching kids Internet safety is as important as teaching them to look both ways before crossing the street. Don't wait until their safety, your financial security or a family member's identity is compromised. Take action against cyber criminals that use the Internet to gain access into our lives and the lives of our children.