Kids today effectively don’t experience days and nights. Instead, it’s time spent on the Internet and time spent on screens; that’s the new age anti-meridiem and post-meridiem for you! Summer time just opens the floodgates to babysitting by gadgets. Kids have more idle time and parents get lenient - its summer after all and let the kids enjoy! That is all fine and parents can lower their guards, but cyber threats never announce their arrivals nor do they take vacations. The ubiquity and multi-device access to internet just opens up a plethora of avenues for cyber security issues.
Here’s a to-do-list of best practices for parents and caretakers to ensure that their children are safe online:
- Spell out expectations. Talk to the kids and treat them like adults. Share your expectations on the use of internet and provide an environment of trust. The children must be aware of the dangers online; and must also realise the faith that you place on them. Children are less likely to stray online when parents have an open dialogue regarding internet use. Parents and kids can check out this youth pledge to understand mutual expectations on internet usage.
- Be conscious of cyber-safety. Cyber-safety is a raging topic today, and everyone must open their eyes to it. Understand the need for cyber-safety practices on all the internet-enabled devices at home. Here are some resources on cyber-safety for mobile phones and parental control tools. Educate yourself on parental control software that will help you stay on top of potential cyber threats.
- Be friends with your children online. The best way to be in touch with your children's online world is to follow them on social media. Children usually keep parents out of online social cicles because it makes them uncomfortable. Parental trust and confidence will help shed this barrier; and once "friends" online caretakers will be in the know about all activities. Parents need to know what their children post online and what others (including adults) expose their children to.
- Live life offline too. Parents must provide a space that engourages quality time spent with the family. Life online is slowly taking over life offline, but human-to-human relationships will never be out of vogue. And underneath all that reticence, children yearn for parental love and attention; something that can't be replaced by social likes and shares and retweets. A recent survey showed that teens who had positive relationships with their parents were 20% less likely to seek unhealthy content online. Children must be shown there's more to life than the internet and gadgets.
- Embrace digital parental control. It's time parents kept up with the times! They must implement technologies to protect their children online. Learn what tools are available and what features each service offers. Internet and Mobile technologies are not going to wait for anyone!
- Follow up on your kids' internet usage. Review, research and monitor your children's online visits. Browsing history reports, app monitoring, mobile management, and many other services are offered my monitoring software. Such services allow you to set time limits, block websites, get alerts etc. Children must know that they are being monitored; they will be free but within certain bounds of propriety.
- Report cyber bullying. Parents must talk to children about online predators and inform them of what could go wrong with digital relationships. Kids must be motivated to report cyber bullying. Children must beware of online bullying and must bring it to the attention of parents and guardians; even if it's happening to someone else!
- Have conversations over difficult topics. Unless children understand why parental controls are necessary, they will resist any such attempt. No one enjoys the prospect of being chaperoned online. Netsmartz guides parents in bringing up such "difficult" topics. The kids need to be onboard; parental controls shoud best not be done on the sly!
- All screens and no play makes kids fat and dull. Ryuta Kawashima's research has proved that computer games and digital activities don't actually boost brain activity as propounded by game enthusiasts. Make sure kids get some fresh air with sports and extra-curricular activities that will see them move away from computers and gadgets. Children nowadays face many health risks like sleep deprivation and obesity due to lack of physical exercice.
- Leverage the online media. Digital parenting seeks to equip parents to put the internet to good use. The long hours spent on the internet could be diverted to websites and activities that will help children think and study and learn! The online world has a plethora of activities to keep your excited kids interested; it's up to parents to rise to the challenge of digital parenting.
Summer breaks are meant to be enjoyed. Let's teach the kids to do it the right way! Let it be fun, let it be enjoyable, let it be productive and most of all let it be safe!
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