Cyber Safety: How to Protect Your Kids From Dangers Online
● By Hood Magazine
By Sanford Health
My, how the world has changed, especially when it comes to technology and especially for kids. At any given moment, they can be updating their status, posting pics, chatting over instant message or video documenting their day on a live stream, and they can do it all from their smartphones. And while the world has benefited greatly from these advancements in interconnectivity, it has given parents a new challenge when it comes to keeping their kids safe.
“Kids can be bullied and abused without ever leaving the house,” says Brett Slingsby, MD, pediatrician specializing in child abuse at Child’s Voice. “Technology has made it fairly easy for that to happen.”
Know what’s up
To help protect your children, you have to know what they are up to online. And unfortunately, most kids are more tech savvy than their parents to begin with. That is why being educated on social media, apps and the capability of devices is so important.
“You know kids can access the Internet through their smartphone, tablet and computer, but many parents don’t realize that gaming systems can also be connected to the Internet,” says Dr. Slingsby. “Xboxes or PlayStations have multi-player game settings and can be used for chatting and communicating with people your kids would never interact with otherwise.”
On many of these devices, there are parental controls. Enabling them is easy, but so is getting around them. It’s important to pick a password your child cannot guess. You can also make sure all computers and gaming consoles are in public spaces like the living room or dining room, not in a bedroom. Then try picking a time when online time is over.
“Say at 9 o’clock, the Internet is getting shut off,” says Dr. Slingsby. “Unplug the modem and take it into your room.”
And for those with portable devices, you can also control the settings on your data plan to prohibit unwanted cellular use.
One of the most important things you can do to protect your kids from abuse on the Internet is to have an open dialogue.
“It’s important to talk to your kids about what is safe to post and what is not,” says Dr. Slingsby. “They shouldn’t be posting anything like their full names, address or phone number. Besides those basic rules, you should be checking your child’s privacy settings. Some apps will automatically post your location when you update your status or upload a picture. And once something is online, it is essentially there forever as it is extremely difficult to completely delete something.”
Talking to kids about the reality of how the Internet works is also key in keeping them safe.
It is impossible to protect your kids from everything on the Internet, but there are certain signs you can watch for that might be a clue your child is being abused online.
“Look for any changes in their behavior,” says Dr. Slingsby. “This could be depression, a lack of interest in activities, increased anxiety, changes in school performance or anything else out of character for your child.”
Dr. Slingsby also stresses the importance of telling your kids they can always come to you no matter the situation.
If someone online ever asks your child for inappropriate information or pictures, it is a crime. Report it to law enforcement immediately.
If your child is being cyber-bullied by classmates, make sure the school is aware of the situation.