Keep Kids Safe, Best Ways to Monitor Kids While Online
Parents, teachers and caretakers today face a challenge when it comes to children and online activity. The Internet has become more accessible than ever and many children don’t understand the risks that they may be taking while innocently engaging in activities that are common practice online, including social media. With multiple ways to get online and the increasing number of children with the ability to navigate the web, the goal is to keep kids safe and protect them from the unseen threats. It is impossible to constantly be looking over a child’s shoulder to see what he or she is doing online but there are other options for monitoring behavior on the computer and keeping an eye out for things that could be detrimental to a child.
Everyone’s Online, Even Our Children
With today’s technology, there is no limit to the number of people that have online access or the amount of time spent on the Internet. Some children even spend a considerable portion of their day interacting with websites and other individuals online. Most adults are surprised to learn that even young children have the ability to open up an Internet browser, search for specific topics, or chat with another person online. Unfortunately, the increasing number of children online also makes the Internet an attractive option for predators.
- Protect Kids on the Internet – The Department of Justice in North Carolina has put together a list of ways that parents can protect their children from inappropriate content as well as the risks that often come with open communication with strangers. Aside from the information, there are links to more resources for parents.
- Online “Predators” and Their Victims (PDF) – This document details some of the misconceptions parents and caretakers have when it comes to online interactions and the risk a child faces while on the Internet.
- Internet Safety: What Do I Need to Know About the Internet and My Child? – The University of Michigan Health System has created a resource for parents with children old enough to be spending time online.
- Facts for Families: Children Online – The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry details the benefits of online access and also explains how to provide guidance and support for children looking to go online.
You Don’t Have to be Looking Over the Shoulder
There are ways other than looking over a person’s shoulder to see what he or she is doing online. Children may be using the Internet correctly in front of parents and caretakers but then venture out to more questionable sites later on in the evening when supervision is less strict. There are programs that can block out certain content online as well as software that can record what a child is doing and what he or she is being exposed to online. The goal is to be aware of what is out there and to talk to kids about the precautions they should take when it comes to their online activities.
- The Internet Safety Pledge – The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has come up with a pledge that family members can sign that shows a commitment to using the Internet correctly.
- Parental Control Tools – There are three places that parents can look for resources to help control how much access a child has to the Internet. The site details each one and explains how they work.
How Children Have Access to the Internet Everywhere
The Internet isn’t just available for exploration at home. Schools have computers in the classroom, in computer labs and in the library. In addition to these opportunities to get online, students can explore the Internet at the public library, a friend’s house or even a daycare center. In each location, it is important that certain monitoring procedures be put into place to ensure that a child’s exposure online is limited. Unsupervised time online tends to be the perfect opportunity for children to participate in high-risk activities that could leave them vulnerable.
- Cyberbullying/ Stalking and Harassment – Children that have access to the Internet at school or at home run the risk of being the victim of bullying.
- How Can Parents Prevent Bullying and Monitor Kids’ Tech Activity? (PDF) Dr. Michelle Borba details ways that parents can prevent their child from becoming a bully and how to monitor the time children spend on the Internet.
- How Do Kids Use the Internet? – NetSafeKids takes away a lot of the misconceptions about how and why children spend time online. It explains the different ways that children are accessing the Internet and what they are looking into.
Just About Everything Can Go Online
Written content is prevalent online but photos, videos, and personal information are up for anyone to see. While kids may think that a photo of themselves at school or home is harmless, each piece of information posted online can easily be accessed by others. Aside from limiting what kids are doing online and the sites they are checking out, it is important for responsible adults to keep an eye on what types of images and videos are being uploaded by children. It is possible for children to use the Internet in a way that is beneficial and valuable but it is up to the responsible adults in their lives to protect them and keep a close watch over what is taking place on the computer.
- A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety – This FBI pamphlet explains warning signs that show a child’s behavior online could put him or her at risk. It also lists out tips for handling the situation should inappropriate activities be discovered and how to prevent them from happening in the first place.
- A Parent’s Guide to Facebook (PDF) – ConnectSafely.org has put together an informational packet that details how Facebook works, giving parents an opportunity to keep an eye on what their children are posting online.
- Kids and Socializing Online – OnGuardOnline.gov gives talking points to parents looking to speak with their children about online behavior.
By Frank Winston, SoftActivity
Photo by San José Library, Flickr
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