Keeping your kids safe on the internet


The Internet world is like a city, jam-packed with information and resources worthy of the finest museums, but also holding menace for the unwary. You wouldn’t let your child wander unsupervised and unprepared in any city. The risks are very real, Internet predators do lure kids into meeting them, resulting in tragedies that include abduction and murder.

So in the same way that you appropriately monitor your child’s physical whereabouts, you’ll want to supervise your child’s internet usage and teach her web necessities, from net etiquette to web literacy and staying safe.

Where do you begin? Online, of course. Start by educating yourself; then you’ll be in a better position to protect and direct your kids. Just remember that while your kids may know more than you do about technology, you know more about life. And you are allowed to set the rules and enforce them because you’re still the parent.

Once you educate yourself, launch into some homeschooling on net safety for your child. Luckily, there are some great sites for kids to go through to learn cyber safety. Stay nearby so you can assist and learn.

Keeping your child safe online doesn’t just mean keeping your child safe from predators. The most common danger of kids using screens is the addiction. Most adults have a hard time managing their own screen usage, so it’s not surprising that our kids beg for screen time and have a hard time turning off their screens. There are some things you can do to help your child avoid screen addictions and stay safe.

Face the truth about electronics
They’re addictive. They change our brains. When we let our children use electronics, we are leaving them at the mercy of this addiction. That’s why it is our responsibility to support our children in learning to manage their use of screens.

Take responsibility for your child’s use of screens 
Which electronics are you going to allow in the house?  How can you teach your children to use each one responsibly? At what age is it appropriate to introduce each kind of screen to your child? It is the parent’s right to manage their child’s participation online because that is a public sphere (unlike a journal, for instance, which is private.)

Walk your talk
Needless to say, if you barely look up from your phone when you’re with your child, you can expect your child to act the same way in a few years. Children often say, “My mom/dad snaps at me when I interrupt when they’re on the computer,” this shouldn’t be so. Is whatever you’re doing at that moment really more important than your child?

Guide your child
If you’re going to let your child use electronics, you can expect some addictive behaviour. Don’t blame your child. Give him or her the support they need to manage their relationship with electronics. Make some family rules, such as talking to your kids about each new social media or device as they start using it, make written contracts, keep all screen usage in the public areas of your home, constantly monitor and enforce agreements, use timers and monitoring software, be the computer administrator, schedule some technology-free time on weekends or no social media until after homework is finished.

Heavy electronic usage might indicate real-life problems
Stay connected with your child so you know what’s going on in their life and you know when there’s a problem. Some kids just can’t handle any electronic usage, because it is over- stimulating and sends them into “fight or flight.” If you see signs of addiction or other acting out, don’t wait to address it, intervene appropriately.

Porn-Proof Your Child
All kids will eventually see porn; it is just a question of when. Even with controls, a computer gives children access to porn, and most children stumble across porn by the age of eight. Porn is almost always dehumanising, because it depicts sex without warmth, intimacy or love. Most porn today also includes verbal and/or physical aggression towards women. So those photos and videos can really traumatize children. Before that first exposure, meaning around the age of eight, you need to educate your child about porn. If you need help talking with your child about this difficult issue, consult books or even a psychologist.

Educate Yourself
Kids know more than we do about the digital world; they’re digital natives. So it’s our job to educate ourselves, so we can help them stay safe and learn digital etiquette. Remember the digital world is always evolving, so we need to be continual learners.

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