Jury duty, paying for used car repairs, having major dental work, or dealing with an abnormal pap are all necessary “adulting” duties I dread, but nothing beats having to educate parents about internet safety for their children. Sometimes I want to close my eyes, wave a magic wand, and make the internet disappear – especially when I hear about twelve-year-olds introduced to hate speech, seven-year-olds watching pornography, or five-years-olds seeing Bloody Mary videos. At the very least, I wish there was a flawless “kid friendly” filter we could put on devices to keep our kids 100% safe online.
Since the internet is here to stay and no such 100% kid-friendly filter exists, it is important we educate ourselves as parents so we can educate our children on the dangers of the world wide web. Keeping them safer online is a #1 responsibility of parents today. As a parent educator and mom to a tween, I put together this list of internet safety recommendations to raise awareness the dangers the screen age poses to our children and what we can to protect the next generation to keep them safe online.
1. Protecting Children Online:
We wouldn’t allow our children to knowingly enter a home or event where they might be exposed to white supremacy, explicit violence, terrifying images, pornography, or sex offenders – yet these exact possibilities exist every moment our children are online.
As parents today we deserve:
- A 100% guarantee our children view only the content we want them to view, not spliced with or followed by violent content
- To know all ads, sidebar content, suggested videos, and pop-ups will be rated G or PG at the worst
- Protection for naturally curious children who search for a word and will not be able to view violence, pornography, and/or one of the many dangerous challenges on YouTube
Here is the hard truth: there is NO guarantee against any of the above on Google, YouTube (even YouTube Kids), Instagram, Tik Tok, or Kik. In fact, it is not a question of “if” but “when” your child will be exposed to violence and sexually explicit content online. So what can we do about this as stewards of the next generation to keep them safe online?
2. Install Internet Filters
Children today are naturally media savvy and curious. Our job is to stay one step ahead of the game. Internet filters are a great start, but not the whole picture. Kiddle: is a meant to be a safe, virtual search engine for kids. If your kids are on YouTube or Facebook, make sure they’re using YouTube Kids, set up a YouTube Family Account, and only use Facebook Messenger Kids. Keep in mind that these are still imperfect safety measures; until stricter laws are imposed, none of these offer a 100% guarantee of being safe online.
Beef up your protection by only allowing your children to watch YouTube with you and block it from their devices. Install Google Family Link, an internet filter, or other parental monitoring apps, but also keep in mind technology is constantly changing and our kids are usually smarter than us online.
3. You are the Key to Your Kids’ Internet Safety:
The only 100% accurate internet filter and safety device is your relationship with your children. Educate yourself by reading the Protect Young Minds blog and remembering kids under 10 make up 1 in 10 visits to porn sites. Subscribe to Common Sense Media, and read about where kids find hate online.
Keeping an ongoing dialogue about internet safety is the #1 ingredient to keeping your kids internet safety. You can equip your children with the skills to stay safe online, share in the internet safety education, monitor their screen time, maintain open communication, and a nurture a respectful, loving, and trusting parent/child relationship. All of these measures WILL work to ensure your child knows what to do and tells you if they encounter something unsafe while online.
4. It Takes a Village to Keep Our Kids Safe Online
Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone. It’s a big responsibility to keep our kids safe online. One of the best things you can to do to both educate yourself and your community is to talk to the other parents in your life. These days, it takes village to provide the safest environment for our children. And remember the #1 piece of the internet safety puzzle is a positive relationship with them. Start building that foundation today!