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Kids growing up today don’t know of a world without the internet. They also don’t as easily understand the risks of internet usage and how people are harmed through it. The internet is a mandatory tool for learning and communicating. However, it’s important to know the risks and how to avoid them. These are four tips for keeping your kids safe online.
1. Giving Out Personal Information
Signing up for a website or buying things online can involve sharing sensitive information. Before giving out any kind of personal data, from your name to your credit card number, you need to think about the site and how much you trust it. Teach this to your kids as well. A website might have the appearance of being trustworthy, but it might be asking for this information to cause problems. A good solution is not allowing your kids to share any personal information without your permission. Show them the signs of an untrustworthy site. For instance, a site that doesn’t have “https” at the front of its URL, it’s not encrypted and therefore, not safe to enter information. With time, your kids can learn to quickly click away from suspicious sites.
2. Psychological Effects
The internet is a strange phenomenon. While it shows real people doing real things, it presents a distorted reality. Social media has exacerbated this problem, but it’s not the only contributor. The more time you spend glued to a screen, the more we can lose our handle on reality. Kids can become addicted to the internet and form serious dependency issues. They might think they love the internet, but it’s actually just causing them a lot of stress and other problems. Talk to them frankly about this. Do this without scaring them away from the internet. Explain how the internet is useful, but it should never be keeping them from socializing or taking care of responsibilities. If a drastic intervention is needed, you may need to suspend their internet usage, outside of school, for some time.
3. External Dangers
Reading about human trafficking facts can be gut-wrenching. However, it’s important to know that slavery is alive and well in our world. The internet has given traffickers and other predators a new place to roam. You need to do your part to make sure your kids don’t become trafficking victims. This can be a difficult conversation, especially if you have younger children. If you’re uncomfortable with getting too graphic or don’t think they’re old enough to understand, simplify things. Explain that there are people who try to hurt children and will seek them out online. To reassure them, talk about strategies to keep them safe, such as never talking to strangers and protecting social media accounts.
4. Social Media Safety
It’s great to keep up with friends on Facebook and Instagram, but you need to be careful about what you share. Some people forget that others can see what they post. That inappropriate photo or post might be getting lots of attention, and it’s not necessarily positive. There’s also the risk of the wrong people seeing them. Your kids should have their social media profiles set to private so that only their approved friends and followers can see them. If a stranger friends them or tries to message them, make sure they’re blocked. You should also have jurisdiction over your children’s social media pages. Allow them to make accounts, but do regular reviews of what they’re posting. If there’s something that’s especially concerning to you, talk to them about it. Explain why they shouldn’t post it in a way that shows concern without passing judgment.
As a parent, you need to do all you can to protect your children. Protection doesn’t mean you ignore the dangers that are. You need to take them seriously and make your children as aware of them as you can. Revisit this topic on a regular basis, talking about things in more concrete terms as your kids get older. The internet has helped so many people, and it can do a lot of good for your kids. However, it needs to be treated with caution. Follow these tips to help your kids stay safe and comfortable when online.