Children are more connected to the digital world than ever before, from gaming and social media to online schools.
This provides them with access to information, entertainment, and opportunities that their parents could never have imagined when they were their age.
Access, however, carries the risk of inappropriate content, phishing schemes, bullying, and grooming, so teaching youngsters how to deal with these very real threats is critical.
We can help children grow up to be healthy, safe digital citizens by teaching appropriate internet habits to them at a young age.
COMMUNICATION IS ESSENTIAL
Because the internet can be perplexing for younger users, having an open and clear channel of communication with your child is one of the most crucial tools in your toolbox.
In general, young children are trustworthy and believe the majority of what they are told.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult to tell what’s real and what’s not when you’re online—even for adults.
Ashley Rose, CEO of cybersecurity firm Living Security, says, “The digital environment makes it easy for people to dress up and play pretend.”
As adults, we may teach children that individuals online aren’t always who they claim to be and that websites aren’t always what they appear to be.
Discuss what viruses, malware, scammers, and catfishers are, as well as how to spot red flags, with your children.
Kayne McGladrey, a cybersecurity consultant and senior member of IEEE, a professional body dedicated to the progress of technology, agrees but warns parents against giving just one or two lengthy lectures.
Instead, he recommends having regular, short conversations. He says, “This is a journey, not a one-and-done chat.”
Make it a routine to ask your children about what they saw on the internet that day, what they thought of it, and whether or not they believed it was safe, and why.
Normalize these interactions as soon as they begin using digital devices so that when they’re older, they’ll feel more comfortable coming to you with problems they’ve had online.
VALUES AND PERSONAL STANDARDS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN TECHNOLOGY
There isn’t much of a distinction between being a good citizen in the real world and being a good citizen online when it comes down to it.
Laura Tierney, founder, and CEO of The Social Institute, an online learning platform that helps students manage their social world, suggests that instead of creating particular rules for each app or site,
proposes that parents create general guidelines or teachings for their children to follow.
These should not simply be used as a guide for online behavior but should be applied to all aspects of your life.
You can use the Social Institute’s seven principles for a better online life as a starting point.
Adopt the ones that work best for you and your children, and create your own set of criteria based on your values.
One of the most effective strategies to model conduct in your children is to lead by example.
Tierney recommends establishing your no-tech time guidelines, being supportive, and refraining from oversharing about your children on social media.
Asking permission before posting that hilarious photo or story about them teaches them about consent and empowers them to manage their internet profile.
ONLINE COMMUNITIES TO FIND AND CURATE
Experience and practice are required to choose which internet community is appropriate for you and your family.
Assist your youngsters in developing curation skills from a young age.
Gahmya Drummond-Bey, a mindful education expert and the founder of KidYouniversity, suggests talking through the options with your children when determining what they can watch.
Sit down with your child and look at the sites’ age restrictions, how frequently they post appropriate or relevant information for your child’s age and the tone of that content.
Beyond those fundamentals, Drummond-Bey recommends paying attention to what other users on the network are saying.
Young children should spend time in communities that are accepting, kind, and supportive.
When your children want access to new platforms, have them lead you through the process.
Also, encourage students to consider their behavior in various settings.
They will attract toxicity and negativity back if they bring toxicity and negativity into their encounters.
By being a constructive member of every community they are a part of, whether it’s with real-life friends or via YouTube comments, they can help others.
They can contribute to the creation of safe environments for themselves and others.
And, according to Drummond-Bey, if your children don’t like what’s going on in some of those towns, they should be able to leave.
A SOLID SAFETY NET CONSISTS OF OVERVIEW, LIMITATIONS, AND MONITORING.
As your children gain experience with the internet, you may use a variety of restrictions and applications to limit their access and monitor their online activity.
Basic but crucial efforts include activating settings like Ask to Buy in the Apple Store and limiting who may see, share, and comment on their social media posts.
Rose also suggests using parental control and monitoring software such as Bark, NetNanny, or Canopy.
These surveillance applications and control options should not be hidden from your children. Tierney recommends that you explain who they are and what they control to them.
What you can see through them, and most importantly, why they’re there. Openness fosters trust and keeps channels of communication open.
If your children are aware that you are watching them, they are less likely to betray your confidence.
Because you can’t delegate your parenting to a computer, McGladrey advises parents not to rely only on parental controls and monitoring software.
Most limits are often circumvented by children, and such programs cannot catch everything.
Instead, keep laptops and gaming devices in a shared space with your family and keep an eye on what they’re watching.
Allow no headphones so you can always hear what’s going on, and engage in their online media consumption with them as much as possible.
Stream programs and play games with them on their many social media sites, and friends and engage them on all of them.
You’ll have better insight into their online lives if and when problems arise if you’re more involved in their online lives.
DON’T FORGET THE ESSENTIALS OF SECURITY
Communication and supervision are essential for a child’s online safety, but you should also encourage your children to acquire excellent security practices at a young age.
The most important of these is knowing the value of good passwords.
Make sure that all of your children’s gadgets are password-protected, and that they never share their login information with anybody other than you.
McGladrey also suggests utilizing a password manager to create and manage unguessable passwords, as well as employing multi-factor authentication.
Another habit McGladrey recommends is installing and maintaining anti-virus software.
Every link your children click and every file they download should be automatically scanned and validated by your antivirus software in case they pose a threat of malware infection.
Installing ad-blocking software on every gadget that your children have access to is also a good idea.
Online advertising has the potential to be a major source of harmful software. You might be skilled at spotting genuine ads in a sea of dangerous clickbait, but kids aren’t.
Furthermore, these tools will assist you in reducing the unpleasant clutter of advertisements as well as the inevitable unwanted purchases that accompany them.
Finally, make every effort to educate children on the value of privacy.
Children should be taught that they should never give up their home address, phone number, passwords, or any other identifying information to anyone online.
Beyond that, children must realize that anything they publish on the internet may remain there indefinitely.
According to Rose, we should believe that any material that reaches the internet is never truly gone.
Even posts they later erase may remain as screenshots waiting to be discovered by prospective employers, colleges, or significant others.
She recommends not posting anything on the internet that you wouldn’t want Grandma to see.
Understandably, you’d be concerned about your child having access to the internet.
However, prohibiting them from doing so is as illogical as prohibiting them from ever crossing a street.
We need to teach youngsters how to properly engage with the online world in the same way we teach them to hold hands and look both ways before crossing the street.
Drummond-Bey claims that “every child is already a digital citizen.” “By assisting kids in being healthy and safe, we will be assisting them in becoming healthier people.”