A few years ago, keeping a single family computer in a highly trafficked part of the house was all a parent needed to be able to keep track of exactly what his or her child was doing online. That parent might even have installed at least a low level parental block on the web to help filter out results for search strings that seem innocuous to children but are major double entendres in the “adult” world. Tracking and controlling web exposure was simple (relatively speaking).
Today, though, with internet capable cellular phones and tablets being almost a school requirement, having total control over your kids’ web exposure has all but gone out the window.
But this doesn’t mean that there aren’t still things that you can do to protect your kids when they are online.
Basic But Necessary Protection
If you’re allowing your kids to have smart phones or tablets, you want to make sure that those devices have at least basic internet protection on them. This is especially important for Android devices. Why? Because Android devices can be configured to be or do anything and they can be vulnerable machines when used on non-secured networks. Luckily, there is some great Android tablet Internet protection software out there that you can use to ensure that your kids’ identities, passwords, etc aren’t being messed with.
Personal and Also Necessary Protection
It’s difficult and often embarrassing, but it is important to talk to your kids about what is and is not okay to post online. With social media sites (Facebook, we’re looking at you) relaxing their security for kids ages thirteen and over and how easily most websites’ security is manipulated, it’s important that your kids understand that it is possible that not everybody they meet online is going to be a good person. Make sure they don’t give out personal details, photos or agree to meet anybody from the Internet that they do not already know in real life. And make sure they understand that all first meetings require your presence as a chaperone.
Trust Goes Both Ways
Keeping your kids safe online isn’t just about making sure your kids know how to act and what they are allowed to do. Keeping your kids safe online is just as much about your own behavior and attitude as it is theirs. If your kids feel embarrassed or are afraid to approach you about something they find confusing or questionable, you’ll never truly know what they’re doing when they’re using those phones and tablets.
And remember: even if you take away your own child’s phone or tablet, he or she can always use one that belongs to a friend! You want your kids to feel comfortable coming to you about anything—even if it might make both of you uncomfortable. Knowing they can tell you anything does more to reduce the urge to sneak around than getting stricter over time.
The FBI has published a list of ways that parents can tell when their kids are engaging in potentially unsafe behavior online. In that list, they make a point of reminding parents that even if a child is experimenting to not blame the child for what happened.