As with the real world, parents must monitor their children to keep them safe in the virtual world. We’ve got some suggestions to help explain online dangers to children without scaring them or making it complicated.
A life without a smartphone, social media or the Internet for young people nowadays is imaginable. Your children belong to the generation of digital natives; the internet and social networks are an integral part of their everyday lives.
They spend more time connected to their friends through social apps than face to face. In fact, some days, more than half of their time awake may be spent connected to a digital device, whether a tablet for homeschool work, a desktop PC, laptop or phone – there’s no escaping online connectivity.
Some internet users express frustration about being perpetually exposed to the virtual world. However, that world also provides many opportunities. For example, the chance to maintain social life despite school stress, lack of time, and an incredible amount of accumulated knowledge.
Nevertheless, there are some dangers lurking on the Internet, especially for young people: cyberbullying, scammers, false information, and adults talking to children inaapropretly. To avoid these, there are a number of things you can do to help your children and teenagers surf the internet safer:
1. Get Connected to Their Social Accounts
To support your children’s safe social media use, it is important to know such things as which social networks they’re on and how they work. Create your own profiles on these same platforms – not to control your children, but to simply try it out for yourself. You don’t have to become an active user – a profile can be made completely private, run under a pseudonym and does not require any photos of you.
You could even add your account to your child’s social media account (as a real user or under a pseudonym) – that way, you’ll be able to see who they’re interacting with to some degree.
2. Banning creates curiosity
Some parents would prefer not to let their kids use Instagram, Tiktok, Snapchat, or certain websites for safety reasons. However, this is not very advisable: For adolescents, everything that is forbidden becomes more interesting and exciting.
And you can’t check whether your child isn’t secretly logging on to Instagram, and young people can quickly find out how a browser history is deleted. Another reason against bans is: confirmation and belonging play an essential role, especially in the teenage years. If all friends are on Instagram, just not your child, they quickly lose touch and are automatically excluded.
3. Strengthen trust bonds
Mutual trust is always important, including when it comes to surfing the web safely. If your kids are afraid of being banned from the internet or having their smartphone confiscated as soon as something goes wrong online, they won’t confide in you.
What applies to real life should also apply to virtual space: everyone makes mistakes. The key difference: the Internet never forgets. Once the wrong photos have circulated, they can hardly be deleted. In such situations, you should try to learn from your child’s mistakes instead of punishing them.
In reality, in the “real” world, it is important to know the sites where your child can be found on the Internet. In the world of opportunities, even adults visit websites that contain offensive or threatening content. In these circumstances, you must protect your child as someone you can be confident.
4. Set Some Groundrules
As with your everyday family life, you should also agree on rules for the Internet. “Don’t get in strangers’ cars” is here: Don’t chat with strangers. Train your children’s critical eye, and make it clear that a healthy mistrust is also important online. After all, you never know whether the chat partner is really who he says he is.
Talk about privacy settings and personal data. Agree that passwords may only be used once and must be as complicated as possible. To easily keep an eye on the flood of passwords, tools like Last Pass. If you want to record the whole thing, you will find a great tool to set up a media usage agreement here.
You can put together various rules and agreements, then print them out and hang them on your fridge, for example. Of course, the rules also apply to parents.
5. Give Your Online Surfing a Check
Parents should also be role models for their children in the virtual world. Anyone who constantly publishes private photos and spreads personal information online will find it difficult to convince their children to be cautious about it.
You should always be on the safe side with your own posts – you too can be googled by your children! Also, refrain from publishing pictures of children for obvious reasons. Your teenage children will thank you because who wants to be seen publicly on the internet in diapers or with a smeared face?
6. Explain The Consequences
Young people often think downloading or streaming films or music is legal. However, this is not the case with protected content. There is also danger lurking in online communities, free apps and games – in case of doubt for your wallet!
Since young people usually do not yet have their own credit cards, they can use their parents’ Internet bills. This works via so-called value-added services, which debit the amount due from the respective mobile phone or Internet bill. A convenient way of paying, especially when you don’t have enough pocket money.
Advertising banners in apps can also represent subscription traps, sometimes a single accidental tap is enough to subscribe to a paid service. Explain to your child how these paid offers work and, as a precaution, block all value-added services in your child’s mobile phone contract.
7. Activate Parental Controls
Youth protection filters ensure that no content that is harmful to young people is displayed. Violent, hate and porn sites are filtered out of search results and can no longer be accessed by the browser. In addition, a so-called blacklist can be created, which blocks certain pages and content. You can find more information and download the appropriate software on the Jusprog website.
The protection of minors is a bit more difficult on some mobile devices such as tablets or cell phones. On most devices, however, various functions such as location services, installing and deleting apps, changes to user accounts and in-app purchases can be password-protected with just a few clicks.
8. Awareness of Privacy Settings
Have you ever clicked your way through Facebook’s data protection and privacy settings? That can really get your head spinning. Therefore, go through your settings together, according to the four-eyes principle. On Facebook, you have the possibility to look at the profile from the eyes of strangers to check whether what should remain private is really private.
9. Watch out for Cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is a big problem in the digital world. Anonymity and non-personal encounters make the inhibition threshold for discrimination and, worse for many, very low. You should react quickly if you find out that your child is being bullied online. Always in consultation with your daughter or son, of course:
- Take screenshots of the messages, comments or images.
- Uses the blocking and reporting function of the respective networks.
- Talk to other parents about their experiences.
- Search for and download cyberbullying apps. On the one hand, there are advice numbers and chats, and there are also guides, one for girls and one for boys. Short videos give tips on how young people should react now.
10. Online Help for Parents and Young People
Do you have the feeling that your child has problems on the internet, but you don’t talk to yourself about it? For concerned parents, visit Parentline Family Support for help. Also, you can report suspicious or problematic websites to the NCSC to do your bit take to make the internet safer for young people.