The internet is as magical for today’s kid as Wonderland was to Alice, probably even more. The lure of accessing an unlimited amount of videos tailored increasingly to fit your liking, irrespective of your age, getting answers to any question that might be lingering on in your mind, the power to connect with and know ever more people through social media, the degree to which the internet can empower kids and dazzle them is unprecedented.
But, despite all of its benefits, the internet is a part of the real world. Parents have to check, monitor and stay informed on the threats to their child’s safety on the internet so that they can promote the safe and more productive use of the platform.
Why do parents need to value education and demonstration over limitations?
It’s also important that you start teaching your child about internet safety at an early age through the explanation of the threats and demonstration on how to stay protected from them.
But this is not an easy process for parents most of the time because of Internet safety and. Cybersecurity is vast domains. Even most adults continue to struggle in protecting their privacy online.
To counter this issue, most parents commit the faux pas of enforcing limit after limit on internet use for kids in the guise of internet security. Common practices in this regard involve commanding your kid to not visit certain types of websites and limiting their internet use to specific hours.
This apparently saves the parents from the trouble of gathering more knowledge about specific kinds of threats that a child can face on the internet. However, this is counterproductive.
Children are curious by nature and when there is a limitation, the child is more likely to end up breaking it intentionally, thereby creating more problems for parents they would have had to deal with otherwise.
What is needed here is to teach and empower the child regarding his/her own internet safety which can include knowledge on the kinds of threats and the ways through which they can be prevented?
The importance of monitoring your child’s activities:
However, the biggest problem with the threats to a child’s safety on the internet, are often so innocuous from an adult’s perspective that they slip through quite easily. Let me quote a highly relevant example here.
Most of the parents out there might be allowing their kids to use YouTube, believing that this is a “Safe” website, because of the apparent credibility of the website. But, in recent times there have been numerous reports of objectionable content being targeted towards children specifically on the platform.
A popular controversy in this regard was the content being uploaded by a YouTube channel named “Web and Tiaras”. Sounds quite innocent right? But the frightening reality is that its anything but that.
The channel used popular kid characters including Elsa (From Disney’s Movie “Frozen”) and Spiderman to create content which was definitely not suitable for consumption by minors.
The themes of the videos involved things like fetishes, bathroom humor, violence, and even adult humor. Definitely not appropriate for children.
But, this channel amassed 1.7 billion views cumulatively by 2017 before action was taken against it. 1.7 billion Views is a big footprint considering that a majority of the audience of the channel was made up of children and minors.
However, the question is that why, despite having inappropriate content, parents failed to recognize the problems in the channel’s content?
There is just one simple answer to this and that is that the parents never watched the videos themselves to know what kind of content their kids were being subjected to.
Those videos might have seemed harmless when seen from afar while taking a glance on your child’s device. A couple of characters engaging in child-level buffoonery, but that hid a very disturbing reality from the eyes of parents.
Modern day internet threats are not so obviously most of the times as the people behind them are garbing them in newer, innovative ways in order to evade attention.
Limiting your children from using YouTube or even from internet use is not the best way to solve the problem.
The best way to protect your child and ensure its safety on the internet is to monitor the kind of content your kids are being or can be exposed to
Promoting Safe Internet Practices with your children:
We suggest this because when you start monitoring, you start finding more out about the kind of problems that might threaten your child’s safety on the internet, allowing you to evaluate the ways through which you can protect your child.
And while internet safety is a vast domain as we stated earlier as well, there are some common safety practices which will allow you to increase your child’s privacy and safety online:
- Always watch the content before your child watches it to ensure that it is appropriate for the child’s age
- Teach your kids about the importance of passwords and how to build stronger passwords through demonstration.
- Educate your children about phishing emails and dubious links which can cause malware attacks on the system and lead to personal data being compromised.
- Tell them that what they post on the internet is permanent and that there is a high chance that it won’t go away even if they delete it, so they need to act carefully. The best way to do this is by teaching them that they should always act and behave like a responsible adult is standing behind them. This can help them in making more better and informed decisions
- Put a restriction on the sharing of devices between the adults of your house and your children. Adults can go and visit many sites and content that might not be suitable for children to watch so its imperative that parents or guardians refrain from sharing their devices with the younger lot at all times
- Teach your kids that they need to stay away from adding people they don’t know on social media.
- Teach your kids on the importance of security patches and how to install them
- Educate your kids on how to use and deploy security software like ways in which you can use a VPN or what exactly is the Best VPN according to their needs.
The importance of an active learning process for parents:
If you are following these safety tips, then it’s a great starting point towards making a difference in the safety level of your child in the online domain. But, never ever become complacent as ensuring your child’s safety is an active process.
New devices and newer technologies make it imperative for you to keep the learning process ongoing.
Parents are often not as tech savvy as the younger lot for e.g. you might not know that the latest Tablet that you bought for your younger son can create a Wifi Hotspot, but your child might be able to do that like its everyday business.
Kids pick things up faster and get influenced by their peers, so it’s imperative for a parent to have, at least basic knowledge on the devices your child uses or the websites they visit, so that you can be able to detect the threats and educate your child to stay away from them as soon as possible.
The Value of an Open Communication Channel towards ensuring online child safety:
Ensuring that your child can communicate with you is the most potent tool you have in the pursuit of ensuring your child’s safety online.
You need to be as open as you can be in order to ensure that your child can communicate to you without any fear of retribution due to the discussion of an off-the-limits topic.
The communication channel can provide you with vital information on any sort of threat that your child might be facing at the moment. Imagine what could have happened, if the parents of those children, who watched the controversial content from the Web and Tiaras YouTube channel, could have been a little bit more communicative with their children.
That kind of objectionable content could have stood out like a sore thumb if only the parents were willing to give importance to the power of establishing an opening communication channel between them and their children.
However, if you want to build such an open communication channel, then you would need to take the following steps:
- Initiate conversations with your child about different activities that it indulges in online
- Engage with them in online activities
- Show them new and more productive things that they can do online
- Ask your child to share their experiences on how they felt about a particular activity online
Teaching your kids and educating them about cybersecurity will go a long way towards ensuring that they are more cognizant of their own safety, not just when they are kids, but when they are older and become adults as well.
Parent is the most critical tool themselves in protecting their child’s safety on the internet and if they take the right actions on educating their children on the prevalent threats, the dangers would stand neutralized to a high extent, ensuring that your child is able to access the internet in a much more resourceful and safer manner.