What Parents Need to Know About Internet Safety

Within the last decade, internet safety has become a growing concern for parents whose children seem to be born with a tech savvy gene and use technology in nearly every aspect of their lives. Parents have to be educated to stay even a step ahead of their children. While it’s easy to allow a child to use a device such as a tablet or smart phone with no restrictions, it’s also dangerous. Parents have to be just as vigilant with technology as they are with teaching their children how to cross the street or handle dangerous items like knives and fire.

Today’s generation of kids are adept at using technology, but they aren’t as skillful at identifying the dangers that accompany it. Here are a few tips to help set safeguards for your children while using technology:

1.     Set up parental controls on computer browsers, tablets, phones and even TV devices like Apple TV and Roku.

2.     Monitor your children’s activity on devices with software that lets you see their browsing history. There is software like Mobicip and mSpy that allow you to see what apps are being downloaded, restrict apps and allows you to filter out words and phrases on search engines.

3.     Don’t allow computers in the bedroom—especially at night. Computer activity should take place in a common area so you can see what your child is doing . Also, phone and tablet use should be shut down at night. Limit the child’s temptation to check devices at all hours of the night by not charging them overnight in their rooms.

4.     Educate your children. Talk to them about not sharing private information on the internet. Warn them of the dangers of talking to strangers and not responding to messages from strangers. Also, have a one-on-one of the ins and outs of sexting and the damage it can do.

5.     Add your child as a friend on social media so that you can see what they are posting and how they are engaging with others. Also, keep an eye on how many profiles they have. Many children bypass the parent-monitored account with secret accounts.

When it comes to apps, many parents are in the dark about the dangers lurking within. Stay on top of what apps are on the phone and what kids are using them for. Here are a few to be aware of:

-Yubo (formerly Yellow) is like “Tinder for kids,” and is aimed at 13- to 17-year-olds as a way to make new friends. But predators are also known to use it

-Instagram: Kids are notorious for making fake accounts called Finstagram, there is no way to filter the search in the app and the message features allows kids to chat and messages are deleted once a user leaves the conversation.

-Snapchat is well-known for sexually explicit photos and videos since they disappear after viewing, but can be saved before this. There is also a SnapMap that can pinpoint a user’s exact location.

-Omegle is a livestreaming video and chat app popular among teens and preteens that exists solely so strangers can talk to one another. The app’s description adds: “Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful.”

-Apps that hide apps and photos like: Calculator Plus that hides photos, App Lock which hides other apps and Vault which hides pictures and videos with a passcode.

-Sarahah is the latest free social media app to be aware of. Users create a profile, and using the phone’s contact list can send anonymous notes to their friends. They can also share their profile link on other websites, even share with strangers, and receive anonymous messages from anyone. Whisper is another anonymous app with red flags as it promotes sharing secrets and meeting new people. Burn Book is a platform for anonymous rumors about people through audio messages, texts and photos.

-Wishbone is an app that teens are using to compare other teens against each other using ratings—has great potential for cyberbullying. Similarly, Hot or Not is where strangers can rate a profile with the goal of hooking up.

Finally, set time limits and set a good example for your children. When they see you setting healthy boundaries, they will follow your lead. Also, designate a technology-free time in your home so kids can get used to going without. Most importantly, establish consequences for problematic technology use.

For more information about kids and technology, visit these additional resources:

Internet Matters: Resources for parents looking to keep children safe online, with age-specific how-to guides, free apps, and device safety checklists. https://www.internetmatters.org/

Family Online Safety Institute: Parenting guides and news and reports about online safety issues. https://www.fosi.org/

Safe, Smart & Social: Social media training guides and safety tips for parents and educators. https://safesmartsocial.com/