As parents, one of our many responsibilities to try to keep our children safe at all times. Technology has become of even greater importance in our children’s lives, and with the constant advancements, keeping up with what you need to know to keep kids safe online in 2022 is more important than ever.
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Do you remember how old your little one was when they were introduced to technology?
With the rise in our use of technologies at home, including the infamous Alexa, and with many more advancements as AI takes significant strides forward, kids are now being introduced to tech much sooner in their lives than ever before.
In figures released following a recent parent technology survey, just over 85% of parents admitted to using technology to occupy their children and keep them busy. By the time children are two, they will most likely have already been given their first Internet-enabled device.
It is reported that over 83% of households are now saying to have tablets or smartphones, so it’s no wonder that children are becoming depending on technology to occupy their brains and keep them entertained more earlier in their lives than ever before.
If we look outside the home and venture into schools and educational settings, technology is everywhere. Teachers and other learning professionals are setting homework that forces children to use technology for research and providing recommendations of specific apps for various educational avenues and tasks.
With all this in mind, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. The key to remember, which goes for adults just as much as children, is to control and monitor.
There are some grave threats online today, and where children are concerned, it is our responsibility to ensure we protect them from the dangers lurking online.
Thanks to modern technology, we can now protect kids online better than ever before. So, although the threats may have increased, has our ability to monitor and control what our children see.
Take time to read this comprehensive guide to protecting your child’s online life. You might learn a few new tricks for yourself, but more importantly, you will be able to confidently give your child the freedom to explore the internet without risk and with less worry from your side as to what they might or do.
If you haven’t heard of an online activity log before, don’t worry. In alarming figures released as part of a campaign to help kids stay safe online, a survey revealed almost 70% of parents have never checked their child’s internet logs.
As parents of a certain age, we never grew up with technology like our children do today. Mobile phones weren’t a ‘thing’ back then, and for some, it isn’t always easy to get help or learn how to ensure your child is safe online.
While technology is changing at an exponential rate, one certain thing is that it is here to stay. At the same time, we might consider something that happens online not to be ‘real-world’ activities. The way our kids see things is very, very different.
Checking activity logs is not spying and is not an invasion of their privacy. It is carefully keeping an eye on where they are going and what they are doing when they are online.
Many parents who monitor their child’s activity logs feel like it helps them to understand their child better, it helps them feel reassured that they know what is going on, and more importantly, it enables parents to extend the courtesy of freedom to their child, to explore, but to do so with boundaries.
Don’t worry. It doesn’t matter whether you do or don’t. One of the most important things you need to remember before getting stuck into the details of this guide to keeping your child safe online is that you do not need to be a technical mastermind.
You do not need to worry about any complex terminology. More importantly, once you have finished reading this guide, you should find the whole task of internet safety for kids far easier to understand. You will feel much more comfortable knowing that your child is still safe under your watchful eye while they are browsing the web.
This is the first step you need to take in securing your child’s online protection. Most often, they are provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and enable you to add certain restrictions to the types or categories of sites accessed from your home network.
Parental Controls enable parents to restrict access to certain content. They can be found on mobile devices, your TV, computer games, and other types of software. Your Internet Service Provider will also have a parental control feature.
The purpose of parental controls was to help parents prevent certain categories of content from being found and viewed by children. It could be content that is not age-appropriate or a particular type of content that is filtered based on the subject or category.
There are different types of parental controls.
Usage Controls – which can limit the time spent accessing content or preventing specific types of use.
Content Filters – which can prevent a child from accessing content that is age-restricted.
Monitoring – which can detect locations and activities when using a specific device.
Computing Use Management Tools – which can enforce the usage of specific software
For anyone reading this who isn’t overly confident with technical controls or computing in general, the good news is that it is not hard to implement any of the parental controls mentioned above.
Another important thing to mention at this point is that it is important to talk with your child. Implementing controls is important as a safety net, but talking with your child and setting clear boundaries for what they can and cannot do online is also important. If they make a mistake, be there and be calm. Helping them to learn is all part of the process.
In this next section, we detail the specific areas of the internet and the devices they use. We explain clear guidelines and depending on your child’s age, some of these will apply right now, and others will be applicable in the future.
For many parents, social media wasn’t around when we were children. While parents have always been concerned with video games and TV content, Social Media is an entirely new ball game.
With more and more children being exposed to social media from a younger age and many children being allowed to use it before the regulated age of 13, they are spending more time than ever on social media.
Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube are the most popular social media channels for teenagers. According to a recent report, 95% of teenagers now have access to a mobile device, with almost 50% of them being constantly connected.
Another interesting statistic is that children between 13-17 spend almost nine hours per day online, while those between 8-12 spend nearly 6 hours daily connected to the internet.
Another real worry and one which is echoed around the world is the addictiveness of social media platforms. Aside from this, it can unlock the gates to other issues such as talking with strangers, bullying, and inappropriate content.
The difficulty is that social media is considered to be a central part of teenagers developing their social identity. It is a way they can communicate with people and how they connect and share their lives, experiences, and feeling with their friends.
Blocking access is not the answer. Instead, talk with your child and establish appropriate boundaries so they can have a positive experience and, more importantly, feel comfortable coming to talk to you about something if they are worried or have a question that needs answering.
Rules for Keeping your Child Safe on Social Media
From as far back as time goes, gaming consoles have been a source of worry for parents across the globe. With games seemingly packed with violence, obscenities, and sexual content, it is more important than ever to watch the types of games your kids are playing.
Couple that with the addictiveness of wanting to level up, progress, and beat companions or rivals who play together online. It is no wonder that online gaming and computing consoles pose a risk where children’s online safety is concerned.
Don’t be tricked into thinking that games certified as X-rated or suitable for 18+ are ok because your child tells you their friends are all playing them. If it states 18+ only, stand your ground; it will have been given that rating for a reason.
Almost 90% of children in the states aged between 2-17 play video games. While those at the younger end of this scale will have no desire to seek out trouble, without the right controls in place, it is very easy for them to take a wrong turn.
Add to this the fact that most games will now have online chat areas, along with the ability to make purchases with a quick click of a button, and you can start to see just why online gaming is another major area of concern, specifically where the online safety for children is concerned.
While games present a fun and interactive way for kids to learn and develop their skills, they can also result in children forming relationships online with others who are playing the same game, along with opening themselves up to cyberbullying and harassment.
Thankfully, almost all gaming consoles provide parental controls, allowing you to control and monitor their activities and gameplay.
Rules for Keeping your Child Safe when Gaming Online
If Bill Gates is to be believed, the safest age to give a child a phone is 14. However, statistics report that the average child gets their first mobile device at the age of 10.
Parents choose to give their children a mobile or smartphone for many reasons. For many, this is predominantly driven by safety. Ironically, the act of wanting to ensure they stay safe and can contact you whenever and wherever could open the floodgates.
Knowing you can always contact your child wherever they may be or that they can let you know they arrived somewhere safely is hugely reassuring. Moreover, you can also use the GPS function to track their exact location. All of this brings peace of mind.
However, because Smartphones can be misused, in some instances, they can cause a child to become vulnerable. Because a phone is a small and very private object, it is not always so easy to see how a child uses it or what they do on it.
If you are considering giving your child a mobile phone, it is important to ensure they understand how you expect them to use it. Having clear guidelines and talking to them about the internet and the dangers that exist online is key. It is a big responsibility and should be treated as such.
Rules for Keeping your Child Safe with Mobile Phones
Tip: An easy way to implement rule number 6 would be to set up a charging station for phones or devices in a central location downstairs. All devices will need overnight charging, which is an easy way to ensure that your child is not on their phone during the night time when they should be sleeping.
Other rules you can adopt include setting up parental controls, mobile location tracking, and limits for the amount of time they can spend on their smartphone. Always lead by example; if you do not want your child to use their phone at the table, then do not sit on your phone during dinner.
Bullying no longer occurs on the way to school, on the bus, and in the local vicinity; it’s happening every minute of every day online. With teen suicides on the rise and online harassment being hailed as the cause for many of these, cyberbullying is a real issue with huge consequences.
Cyberbullying is ugly. It can occur on any platform, anywhere, anytime, and takes many forms. From threatening texts and messages, social media tagging rumors, doctoring of images, private photos being shared without permission, spoof posting, people imitating other children, and generally humiliating or degrading them. It all happens a lot more than any of us care to imagine.
Because the nature of bullying can become very public, its impact is inflated. If a child was bullied at school, on the bus, or in the playground, the effect was contained and witnessed only by a limited number of people. However, that is no longer the case. Now, even the most private of information can be spread online in a rapid fashion.
Whatever the incriminating post is, it will likely remain online indefinitely unless it is removed or taken down by a moderator. As a final note about cyberbullying, it is much harder to deal with than traditional bullying. Because cyberbullies can make content 24/7, it is hard for the victims to get relief.
For those who partake in cyberbullying and get caught, this can significantly impact future employment, university applications, and much more. Sometimes, it could even result in the individual obtaining a criminal record.
This is why having an open conversation with your child about what constitutes cyberbullying, what forms it can take, the impacts it can have, and the seriousness of the consequences of anyone being caught.
The awful statistics behind this demonstrate that in the US alone, more than 20% of high school children have experienced bullying at some point in their lives. Of this figure, over 15% of that bullying took place online.
How to Tell If Your Child Is Being Bullied Online
While it is very difficult to know if your child is being subjected to cyberbullying, and many of them do not immediately speak up through fear or embarrassment, there are a couple of practical things that can be done to combat cyberbullying.
Pay close attention to your child’s behavior.
Bullying can start almost instantly, so it’s important to ensure that you have an open dialogue with your child and that they feel comfortable talking with you. However, it would help if you were extra vigilant when they transition to high school. You can watch out for several warning signals to help you know if your child is being bullied.
Due to the openness of the internet and the almost unrestricted access to information and other forms of content, it is quite easy for anyone, adults, and children, to stumble across a range deemed inappropriate.
For children, the content they view could cause serious upset, confusion, or even distress. Inappropriate content takes many forms, and not all of it is well-hidden with safety or access controls. It could be a video of something sexual content, or it could contain violence or swearing.
For any child, whatever their age, seeing something they shouldn’t do online causes a mixed bag reaction. Normally, they will not come straight to their parents. In some cases, they worry that their devices could be confiscated or that they might get told off. This is why having an open dialogue with them is so important.
Remember, they might be upset, angry, confused, embarrassed, or even afraid following exposure to inappropriate content online. Always be calm and always remain rational. Be there for them, without judgment or prejudice.
Depending on your child’s age, you may or may not have had a conversation about sex. There has been much research conducted that proves the detrimental impact porn can have on young people. Online pornography is a real issue and one that needs tackling head-on.
While it is completely normal to be curious about sex and relationships in general, it is far better to have these curiosities and conversations dealt with in a controlled environment rather than being left to the broad realm of the Internet.
There are also many avenues of support, from educational establishments to appropriate online resources. You can talk with your child’s teacher about this as almost all schools will have to deal with this on a very regular basis.
Tips for Dealing with Inappropriate Content
Similar to social media and mobile phones, TVs present a similar issue. Children would watch TV with the family in the living room downstairs for years. There would be one computer that the people in the house would share.
Nowadays, kids have access to the same content they would have previously watched on the TV on their mobile devices. What’s more, content is being streamed and protected from the comfort of their own private space, away from the watchful and guiding eye of the parent.
The benefits of streaming and indisputable.
If you take advantage of the available tools, you can ensure that your child has access to the right level of content that is suitable for their age. The important thing is to remain vigilant and always keep a close eye on the content your children are watching.
Online privacy is a lot harder now than it used to be. The real challenge that parents face is striking the right balance between enabling freedom and giving a child the space needed to explore and discover new things while remaining in control and knowing who can see and access private information.
The reality is that children are completely susceptible to threats that can have several varying impacts, from emotional to financial. They are the same threats that adults are exposed to and come in various forms, such as phishing, malware, viruses, and identity theft.
You cannot expect a child to be as vigilant as an adult. Nor can you expect them to be able to spot something that appears to be genuine Vs. Something that is not. For a child, sharing their name or birthday with someone might not seem like such a big deal.
Clicking to buy more coins or hints from your phone *that are linked to your credit card* might not seem like a big deal either. However, we all know how these things can escalate and how, without setting account limits, these bills can slowly build up.
From offering free downloads of popular games or movies to free wallpapers and ringtones, there are many ways attackers will target children to trick them into taking actions online that can result in viruses, malware, or, in the worst-case, financially driven identity theft.
Tips for Tackling Online Privacy with Children
As with all of the points in this guide to protecting kids online, a key theme is dialogue. You need to be able to talk with your child about things that can go wrong online. Of course, these conversations need to be age-appropriate and always try to have them in a way that will educate without causing too much fear or alarm.
As a final point, ransomware attacks are on the rise. People will email you claiming to be from the dark web and claiming to have been able to access your password and, as such, hacking into your email accounts. Gone are the days when these attacks were only aimed at corporations and rich individuals; the tactics have changed, and they are using many tricks to target everyday people.
With many major companies falling victim to one kind of data breach, some very big names have issued statements that passwords may have been compromised.
While people have disregarded this matter or not fully been aware of the impact, this can have, for those of you who use that one same password for everything, this presents a huge opportunity for attackers who can access that password and an even bigger threat for anyone who isn’t so tight on their security measure.
The answer to the question posed of how to ensure your kids are staying safe online is made far easier through technology. Using a combination of different technologies, such as a VPN, anti-virus software, and a secure password generator service, you can arm yourself and your child with the best possible defense and method of protection for staying safe online.
Technology is one of the essential tools for staying safe online, and we know it is advancing all the time. However, as a parent, it is important never to try to use technology in place of conversation and education. Keeping an open dialogue with your child, being there for them to talk with you when they need you, and staying rational and calm when they present you with problems or questions are key.
Always listen. Never shut them down. Remember that they are learning, and it is your job to facilitate that learning safely and productively.
There is no need to worry about complicated technical jargon or tools that are difficult to use. Thankfully, social media, content streaming companies, and Internet Service Providers all play an important part in making it easier for your child to access the internet in a controlled or safe manner.
Please remember that you are not alone and that there is always help for you as the parent when it comes to knowing what to do to keep your child safe when they are online.
We hope that after reading this guide to helping your child stay safe online, you feel more confident in knowing how to prepare yourself and your child for some of the experiences you might have online in the future.
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them here, and one of our team will be more than happy to respond.