Keeping your child safe online

The Internet, especially social media, makes us vulnerable, something we need to make our children understand. We can ban or restrict their time on the internet, but that doesn't eliminate risks.Before, I move on to the solution, let me state a few more of those facts and figures, which might make you ponder on this a little more.Another study in 2014 stated that kids are maturing faster due to social media. But, surprisingly, around 70% of surveyed parents allow their children to use the internet and let them have their own Facebook account by the age of 12.95% of the parents monitor their kids’ online activity to some extent, and 55% of them monitor their kids very closely. 53% of parents feel that the Internet has beneficial resources for their kids, however, they also do not ignore the ill effects. 42% of parents say that the benefits and risks are equal, while 5% feel that the threats outrightly overpower the benefits.Another important thing to notice is that 80% of parents feel that they are confident of their ability to protect their children from social media crimes, but this confidence level goes down as their kids grow older. For example, only 36% of parents were confident of their knowledge of protecting their kids in the age group of 14 to 17.As a parent whose children are growing up in this world, you need to make sure to know where and how you can protect your child on the Internet, with a few of these simple guidelines:
  • When your child starts to use the internet, always ensure that you are sitting right next to them. You need to operate the controls and they can just view as a mode of recreation or entertainment. As they start growing (say by the age of four), you will teach them a few basic operations, but always monitor.
  • As they grow (say till the age of seven), you use kid-friendly browsers or make a personalized bookmark of the sites you want them to view. Tell them to use nicknames when a site asks them for their names. Always keep the laptops or desktops in an open area, where you can monitor their activities and not in their bedrooms. Teach them about web privacy and safety. Block instant messaging sites, chat rooms, video messaging, mobile Internet and others.
  • Set parental controls over sites and browsing. You can do this by using kids friendly browsers. You still need to monitor their activities, especially their accounts or online interactions. Talk about how they interact with friends or what sites they can visit, etc. Teach them about not giving away personal information for registration, contest, downloads, etc., without taking your permission. Do not let them have their personal email account yet (till the age of 10); you can rather have a common family email account and teach them how to operate so that you can monitor any misuse.
  • Tell them about not meeting people they interact with online. Keep a periodic check on the browsing history to know what sites they access. Ensure a proper firewall and security check software is installed in the system they use. Set a specific time and usage guidelines for using the Internet. Talk to them about cyber safety and ethical behavior. Do not get them a personal system to use on their own (till the age of 13). Find out if their friends have personal computers and if they are accessing on their own, talk to their parents as well.
  • Teach teenagers about sharing information, pictures and other location details. Insist that they take you along if they are planning to meet someone they interacted with, online. Warn them about possible threats with examples. Keep a check on their online transactions. Educate them about spam and how it can harm them. Discuss games like gambling and others, which they might want to play.  If you allow IM, ensure that you keep a check on them (till the age of 18). Most importantly, keep a close watch and be alert about their activities over the Internet and social media. Upgrade your knowledge base accordingly. Always communicate and make them aware of the hazards, rather than saying no.
Set the following set of rules for your child too:
  • Do not give out personal information of any form online without asking the parents.
  • Do not share your account passwords with anyone else because they can also misuse your account.
  • Do not post personal pictures online without informing the parents
  • Do not agree to meet anyone whom you have met online
  • Do not add people you don’t know to your social media profiles
  • Do not be a part of any kind of groups or rooms that talks about racism or terrorism or pornography
  • Do not download any apps or software that asks you for payment information.
  • Always inform your parents if something or someone makes you uncomfortable online
  • Always let your parents know about new sites, groups or accounts you join or add.
  • Check with your parents about your Internet, social media or mobile phone usage rules
  • Make sure you involve your parents while using the Internet, like teaching them about games, apps and other resources.