Research carried out by Common Sense Media found that 53 percent of children growing up in America have a smartphone by the time they are 11, and 69 percent do once they are 12 years old. Whether we agree with kids having cell phones and access to these devices, the fact is that at some point they will need, and they will have them. What you can control is their usage of them and teach them how to navigate the online world safely and properly. Here, we will look at some of the things you can do to keep your kids safe online.
Monitor their use
While older teens certainly are entitled to a modicum of privacy, if you have allowed a younger teen or a child to have a smartphone or a device that they can use to access the internet, it is important to monitor their use and keep an eye on exactly what they are doing. This will ensure that they are not being groomed or giving out personal information to the wrong people. It also helps to prevent cyberbullying and harassment. Check their social media accounts, including private messages, and if necessary, find out how to read someones text messages without their phone. They might not like it, but your role as a parent or a guardian is to keep them safe.
Set an example
Are you almost constantly on your cell phone? Do you eat with one-hand while browsing your smartphone? Are you distracted and pay more attention to social media than to what is going on in the world around you? Do not stress – you are far from the only adult. Stats have shown that 22% of us check our phones every few minutes, and 51% of users look at it a few times per hour.
It is difficult to set screen limits on your kids and tell them to turn their smartphones and tablets off before they go to bed if they know we spend all day and night on them as well. Try reducing your screen time and set a good example to your kids, and in turn, they will imitate what they see. If they do not, at least they cannot cry hypocrisy when you tell them to turn it off!
Open the lines of communication
If your children know that they come to you and talk to you about any problems that they experience while online without fear of judgement or getting into trouble, they are much more likely to discuss things with you. Make sure that they know they should tell you if they come across anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or someone is putting pressure on them. Stay calm if they tell you anything and look at how you can deal with it without shouting and punishments.
This is the first generation that has access to the internet from a young age, and like it or not, it is a significant part of our lives and will be around for life. Making sure that our children know how to navigate it safely is of paramount importance.