The internet is here to stay. We may be connecting via a jack at the back of our head of a virtual reality set in the future, but there’s no doubt that we will only be more connected in the future. Having a healthy relationship with the internet isn’t easy, even for adults, but it’s an important part of preparing your child for an increasingly digital future. Here, we’re going to look at some of the steps you can take to make sure that they’re smart, safe, and responsible in how they use it.
Having a healthy relationship with the internet isn’t easy, but it’s an important part of preparing your child for an increasingly digital future.
Teach awareness of the risks
There are, undoubtedly, plenty of risks that come with using the internet. Phishing scams stealing personal and financial information, strangers with malicious intent, all kinds of viruses and spyware. It’s not as simple as sitting them down for a single lesson and then being entirely confident that they know what they need to. Rather, you should look for sites that teach you internet safety topics that you can explore with them one at a time as they first start to use it. Until they have a basic grasp of the major risks of the online world, you shouldn’t let them use it completely unsupervised.
Keep an eye on how they’re using each device
Of course, being informed is not the same as acting on that information. Saying that they’re using the internet safely is not the same as actually doing it. To start with, you can easily monitor their activity on the PC by keeping it in a shared space in the house where they can’t get away with too much. But what about when they start using mobile devices like tablets or smartphones? Apps and tools that track their activities can help you ensure they’re being responsible, and one offers free trial periods that can help you see how effective it is. It may not offer the privacy that they are going to want right now, but while they are under your care, it’s more important that they earn that privacy rather than having it immediately granted to them.
Be a better blocker
If you want to transition to a more hands-off approach or you simply want to make sure that they’re not likely to see any content that could potentially be influential in a harmful way, then few things work as well as parental control apps. There is a range out there, suitable for kids of different ages with different levels of customization and access control. There’s plenty of explicit material on the internet that’s easy to stumble on even accidentally, so setting up some boundaries will help. They can’t block absolutely every site that’s worth blocking, but they are as comprehensive as they need to be.
It’s not just what they see, but what they say
Social media is playing an increasingly central role in online life and it’s hard to say whether that’s for the better or the worse. It makes it easier to connect with people and to stay informed, but it also lends a platform without accountability where people can be as vitriolic as they please. You cannot stop your kid from being exposed to the harmful side of social media when they do start using it, so instead your responsibility should be to ensure they don’t join in on it. Learning about using social media responsibly can make sure that they know how to use it safely, make sure they take nothing on there too personally, and not give in to the temptation of rolling in the Twitter mud when others are fighting dirty.
Everything in moderation
An important part of keeping a healthy relationship with social media, and the internet in general, is that you know when to turn it off. It’s easier to learn that if they already have a hobby they can turn to, such as sporting activities. Even if they’re going to become a top-notch software engineer, they still need a balanced life for both their physical and emotional health. This might start as limiting how much time they have with screens a day and helping them build a routine that involves time away from the computer. As they grow older, teaching them time management techniques can help them maintain that balance on their own.
Eventually, your kids are going to know more about the internet and will be warning you about the hot new risk instead of you warning them. For now, however, you need to build that foundation of skepticism and security mindedness that can help them get to that stage.