Are you a helicopter parent? While this type of parents are generally known to be overprotective, one factor unifies them with every other parent. They simply want the best for their kids. However, whether you’re a helicopter parent or not, you should always keep an eye on your kids’ online activities.
Sure, the internet might be a fun educative hub as for example, it encourages learning math for kids. At the same time, it can be a danger zone filled with predators and cyberbullies. So, how do you keep your kids safe online without being overprotective and intrusive?
Here are a few tips for you:
Parental control options
Here’s the thing: most kids don’t exactly go out in search of explicit content. In some cases, an innocent search may lead to not-so-innocent results. Your child might search for online math courses and accidentally end up on an explicit site. So, how can you prevent your kid from stumbling into inappropriate results? Well, it’s simple… kind of. Set up parental control.
Parental control can help to filter content and restrict the time of your kids’ internet usage. For instance, Google offers SafeSearch Filters that block sites containing explicit content.
However, while these filters and parental control are great tools, they aren’t exactly foolproof. In some cases, your child may use a friend’s device and get unfettered access to the internet. That’s why it’s advisable to equally explore other safety tips as outlined below.
Communicate openly with your child about their online activity
Communication is key to internet safety. Sure, your child might want to hoard secrets, but as a parent, you should establish trust and create a safe space where they can talk to you about their internet activities. As soon as kids are old enough to access the internet, talk to them about what they are doing online, who they’re communicating with, and which sites they are visiting.
You can also share some of your experiences with a child to let them know that you’ve been in their shoes before. If you create a safe space for open communication, kids will certainly feel comfortable talking to you about any challenges they may be facing online.
Teach your children about internet safety
Many children tend to fall prey to internet predators because of not knowing the tenets of online safety. In addition to communicating with your child, you should teach them about internet safety. Sure, you don’t want to scare them away from the internet forever, but children need to know that an online version of Stranger Danger exists.
Teach them not to share their location with strangers online. Most social media networks and apps contain geotagging features which can show your location and lead anyone to you. Thus, explain kids how to turn off these features and be careful of the information they share online.
If you don’t do it face-to-face, don’t do it online
Here’s the thing: the internet tends to shield or mask us and make us more abrasive. According to psychology experts, lack of eye contact and anonymity that social media provides contributes to this abrasiveness. In fact, in a new study conducted by The Avast Foundation, up to 28% of respondents admitted that they are more likely to be aggressive online than offline.
Therefore, it’s essential to teach your kid that there are real people behind the screens. They need to be aware of this fact and choose their words or actions carefully. If a kid isn’t rude to a random stranger in real life, then they shouldn’t do it online. In the same vein, if a kid won’t share their location or private photos with a stranger who walks up to them, they shouldn’t do it online either.
Know who your child’s online friends are
Sure, it can be hard to keep tabs on your child and their friends. However, if you’re looking to keep your child safe, you need to monitor friends they make online. If your child isn’t cyber-wise, they may become friends with cyberbullies or, even worse, predators.
Please monitor your child’s friend list and ensure that you’re friends with them on all social media platforms. This way, you can see what a kid posts and the kind of content they interact with.
What to do when your child is harassed or cyberbullied
So, we have explored the preventive measures to ensure your child’s online safety. But what do you do if your child still gets cyberbullied despite all the measures you’ve put in place? If you suspect that your child is being cyberbullied, here are a few tips to help you:
Talk to a kid
If you suspect that your child is being bullied, it’s advisable to sit down and have a conversation with them first. Explain what cyberbullying and harassment are, and then ask them if they’re experiencing it.
If they are, comfort a child and offer as much support as possible. Remember to constantly check in on them as cyberbullying can have drastic effects on one’s mental health.
Direct a child to someone they can talk to
In some cases, your child might not want to talk to you about cyberbullying because they feel embarrassed or ashamed. While this can be disheartening for any parent, you must understand their feelings and direct them to someone they feel comfortable talking to. This may be a friend, a teacher, or even a counselor.
Report the bullying online or to local authorities
If your child is being bullied online, you can contact the involved social media platform to report the posts or accounts. For instance, Facebook has community guidelines to prevent and tackle bullying.
If your child is a victim of a hate crime, you can also report it to the police.
For any parent, it’s normal to want to protect your child from online bullies and predators. With these tips, you can certainly ensure your child’s online safety and take necessary steps if kids are being cyberbullied.