Why is online child safety such an urgent concern?
In 2018, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that 94% of children access the internet using their mobile phone or a personal computer. The age range of the children is from ten to eighteen, with a majority using the internet for education and entertainment purposes. For this reason, online child safety is an essential consideration for every parent.
Although the positive effects of the internet outweigh the negative, parents should keep an eye on their children when online. Fortunately, ensuring internet safety for kids is possible by incorporating some preventive measures in your home.
Here are some easy ways to ensure online child safety is a reality in your home and beyond:
Keep computers in the home within common areas
Computers open up a world of possibilities for kids, but not all of them are good. In addition to using parental control software, it’s a good idea to place computers used by children in a visible place within a common room. That way you can quickly glance at the screen while passing by, an important step for online child safety. Most children will use computers for the intended purpose when they know an adult is checking in on them frequently. If they have to move to another area of the house, consider setting aside time to monitor them for a little while until they get back to the designated area.
Experts recommend that you avoid placing a computer in your child’s room as it can cause anxiety and sleep loss, as well as reduce your ability to keep an eye on their internet use. If you do allow them to use a computer in their room, consider getting a laptop so that they can easily change locations and spend a limited amount of time by themselves. Regularly check on what they’re doing and who they’re talking to online. Internet safety for kids requires parents to stay involved and communicate with their children.
Improve your internet and computer knowledge
Many adults are at a disadvantage compared to kids when it comes to learning about technology and the internet. This is especially true for parents in their thirties or forties. Today’s children and teens are known as digital natives, as they were born in a millennium where computers have always existed. Some started playing with a parent’s tablet or smartphone before they learned to walk.
To keep up with your child’s ever-expanding tech knowledge, you need to learn more about the internet and the many offerings found on different platforms, such as TikTok, Discord, Instagram, and other social media. You may be familiar with some of these, but it’s important to understand that social feeds are curated based on the perceived user interest. If your child stumbles onto something they shouldn’t, they could quickly end up with an avalanche of inappropriate material headed their way.
To improve internet safety for kids, it’s recommended that children stay off social media until at least eighth grade. Younger kids should use the internet only with adult supervision. If your kids want to watch funny videos on YouTube or TikTok, they can do it on the living room TV where you can keep track of what they’re watching. Avoid giving them a smartphone or other connected device that allows unrestricted access to social media before they’re ready.
Go online with your children
Browsing the web as a family both for educational and entertainment purposes is important for online child safety. Parents that regularly spend time surfing the internet with their children find it easier to monitor their behavior and ensure online safety for kids.
Your children will also approach you with digital problems that need solving when you look like you understand what’s going on. Make time to help with homework online as a way of bonding between you and your child while ensuring they are safe.
Set limits for computer usage
Rules give children an idea of what is and isn’t allowed in the home. The same applies to their use of the internet on a computer or mobile device. Ensure that you have a set time that they can use the computer for both personal and educational purposes in order to limit “screen time.”
Limits may be flexible when researching information for school work, but you need to monitor if it is being used for the right purposes. You can extend the time your child uses the computer when you know they are accessing quality content. Additionally, setting limits for internet use varies based on the age of the child and their computer knowledge.
What about phones? Although smartphones aren’t appropriate for kids younger than 12, many parents want a way to communicate with their child throughout the day. However, you don’t want your kids staring at their phone all day (like a lot of adults do, if we’re being honest). You also don’t want your kids using social media or other aspects on the internet unsupervised.
The solution is to get your child a kids smart watch like the COSMO JrTrack™ smart watch for kids, which allows calls from you and other numbers you place on an approved list. The internet and social media are blocked, and you can place time limits on how much your child uses the device, so you know they aren’t staring at a screen for hours on end. However, you can still call them and use the built-in GPS tracker for kids to keep up with their location, for your own peace of mind.
Educate your child about online dangers
As a parent, you realize that internet safety for kids is important, and you’ve likely taken steps to protect your kids, like limiting internet access. However, when your kids are older, they will eventually have less restricted access. There’s also the possibility they may find their way online at the home of a friend whose parents aren’t so diligent. For these reasons, you need to start preparing your kids to understand the dangers they may face online and the steps they can take to protect themselves.
Take time and have a discussion with your kids about internet dangers and be as honest as possible. Point out the kind of things they need to avoid so that they stay away from them at all times. Make sure they know not everyone they meet online is who they say they are, and they should never give out personal info. Also explain that people can be bullied online the same as they can be bullied at school, and how to recognize bullying.
Children who are forewarned are better prepared should they ever face cyberbullying or solicitations from shady internet “friends”. In the meantime, a mart watch for kids will prevent them from spending unsupervised time online.
Encourage responsible chat room participation
The likelihood of your child joining an online chat room when surfing the web is high. There are a myriad of anonymous chat rooms targeted at kids. While such chats themselves might not be overly risky, the chance that a stranger will send an external link to Zoom or Google Hangouts is something to be wary of when considering online safety for kids.
Children need to understand that people in these discussion forums are strangers no matter how friendly they seem online. Regularly inquire if they have been contacted by anyone online and make a habit of scanning their recent history to check if they have logged into chat rooms.
Ensuring your child’s devices limit stranger contact is also important. The COSMO smart watch for kids blocks all calls that aren’t on a pre-approved list you create. You can add yourself, other family members, and your child’s friends from school. But if they want to call someone new, they’ll have to ask you first.
Prohibit giving out personal information online
Your online child safety efforts aren’t complete without making sure your kids understand the consequences of providing personal information to strangers online. Forbid your children from giving out their home address, school location, or phone number to strangers online. More importantly, make sure they know why this is such a bad idea, so they don’t decide it’s a silly rule they can ignore.
It doesn’t matter whether they have been talking to someone for a while, such information should never be shared at all. Go one step ahead and ban meetings in person with “friends” they meet online. When unsure, they should consult you or a trusted adult.
Don’t share photos online
In the age of social media, it’s common for youngsters to share photos and videos of themselves with friends. However, it’s important to make your child understand that uploading their photos to online sites is prohibited.
Most times, predators share photos in the hope that the child will do the same, and as a result, gain their trust. In case your child starts to receive photos from strangers, it is important to report this to your internet provider. Also, ask your child to immediately stop communicating with the stranger and block them from contacting your kid.
But remember that this online child safety rule goes for you, too! Parents (and grandparents) also need to refrain from posting photos of their kids. Not only can predators learn more about your child from such photos, but you’re also creating a digital footprint that will follow your child throughout their life. If you want to share photos with friends or family members, send them directly by email or text message instead of posting them on Facebook where anyone can steal them.
Invest in online parental controls
Leaving your child to make decisions on their use of the internet can be unwise, especially when they are young. Parents need to have some control over internet use in the home and exercise it when necessary for online child safety.
Tools that allow parents to block some websites, filter information, and monitor their child’s use when online are important if your children are to remain safe. Talk to your internet provider to learn about the parental control tools available and learn how to use them effectively. However, you should also remember that these tools are no substitute for paying attention to your kids’ activities online.
The COSMO smart watch for kids has particularly good parental controls. The internet and social media are completely blocked, so you don’t have to worry about your child wandering onto Twitter unsupervised. This kids smart watch also blocks calls from strangers, so they can’t get robocalls, or be contacted by any random person who gets their number. Only people you place on the approved calls list can contact them.
Monitor social media pages
Social media has become another platform through which predators approach children to harm them, and a big concern when it comes to internet safety for kids. The many social media sites can be overwhelming for any parent, but with some research you can find out the most popular ones for kids your child’s age. Talk to your child about the dangers of social media and give them tips on the best ways to stay safe. If you want more control over their social media use, consider installing an application that gives you information on their online activities. This works best if they are only able to access social media from a shared computer that you can monitor.
The COSMO kids smart watch completely blocks all social media, so your children can’t use it unsupervised. This will help you keep younger kids away from social media entirely, while allowing you to monitor usage for older kids by only giving them access on a computer.
Teach children to identify cyberbullying
The cases of cyberbullying are increasing worldwide with children becoming victims of anonymous bullies. The bullies who are often anonymous use the opportunity to say harmful things about whomever they like and this affects the child negatively. Parents need to help their kids to quickly spot bullies online and report them immediately. Also, make sure your child understands that you will take their side at all times in case they are cyberbullied for any reason.
Ultimately, online child safety is a team effort between the parents and children
Children that understand the need to stay safe online get to enjoy the benefits the internet offers, while keeping away from its dangers. Parents today need to understand that all the dangers that were present when they were kids have now spilled over onto the internet, and need to be addressed there.
The best way to keep kids safe online is to always know what they’re doing on the internet, which means they should mostly use larger devices in common areas with appropriate adult supervision. However, being able to contact your child at any time is also an important safety consideration, and many children beg for phones long before they’re old enough to use one appropriately. What should a parent do?
The best solution is the COSMO JrTrack™ kids smart watch. It protects children from online dangers like cyberbully, predators, conversations with strangers, and inappropriate content by completely blocking the internet and social media. It also restricts calls to people on a list you create in the parents’ Mission Control app, so strangers can’t contact your child for any reason—but you can call them any time, as well as determine their location through the built-in GPS tracker. Additionally, you can limit their time using the device so they don’t spend too much time on their phone.
To learn more about how the COSMO kids smart watch can help keep your kids safe, check out our current offers here.