Proverbs 27:12 says: “A prudent person foresees the danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”
I have started reading this verse a new way, “A prudent parent foresees the danger ahead and takes precautions. The simpleton parent goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” As parents, we need to see the dangers ahead, and we must take precautions.
What can you do to protect your child online? Here are numbers 1-5 out of 10.
1. Use Internet filtering software on your computers.
Your kids may not be looking for inappropriate content, but if they spend enough time on the computer, it will come looking for them. An ad or pop-up alert may get their attention, and before you know it, they are off and running. A simple Google search for a project they are researching for school may return a successful search for what they are looking for, but occasionally it will also include undesirable sites.
Internet filtering software or content control software can help. With the most basic level, you can control what content is viewed online, and some software packages will send an email, text or alert to a specified email account or cell phone number so that you are kept aware of what is happening or has happened on one of your home devices.
Here are three Internet filtering software options worth looking at:
- Bsecure: Endorsed by Focus on the Family, Bsecure (www.familyisafety.com) provides social networking protection, online media filtering, and text and email alerts to parents’ phones.
- Social Shield: Offering you a total view of the social networking your kids are doing, SocialShield (www.socialshield.com) will alert you to potential dangers and will give you information to keep your children safe and protect them online.
- WeZift: (WeZift.com) Will help you answer these questions. What are your kids seeing and doing online? Are they spending too much time online? What new apps have they downloaded? What should I know about these apps? they also have a Blog and other parent tips regarding your child's digital world.
2. Use parental controls on your computer and tablets.
Parental controls differ from filtering software in that you can regulate screen time as well as block sites and record what content your kids are viewing or trying to view on one computer in your home. Both PC and Mac computers have built-in parental control screens that allow you some control over the use of the computer.
3. Know your child’s privacy settings on social media sites.
Before your kids jump on the social media highway, you should prepare them for the occasional emotional fender bender that will undoubtedly accompany them on their journey. That being said, there are a few things you can do to minimize their accident risk as they drive along their digital highway.
Once your children join a social media site, the first thing they should do is send you a friend request. You will want to be a part of their social media circle, not necessarily as a participant, but certainly as an observer.
Here are the current minimum age requirements for a few of the most popular social media services and applications:
- You must be 13 before creating an account on Facebook.
- You must be 13 before creating an account on Instagram.
- You must be 17 before creating an account on Vine.
- You must be 13 before creating an account on YouTube.
- Currently, there is no minimum age for a Twitter account.
4. Spend time together with your child online.
Sit down with your children and spend some time with them online––showing them and modeling for them how to use cyberspace in a healthy way. Talk about what they should do if something inappropriate comes up on their screen. You don’t want them to hide anything from you, and you don’t want them to cover their digital tracks. By spending time together with your child online, you can help them understand the importance of exploring a healthy digital space.
5. Sign an Internet safety agreement with your child.
I know that not all parents like using behavioral contracts or agreements with their kids, but in regard to protecting your children on the Internet, I’m not so much pushing a contract as I’m talking about accountability. Whether it’s a contract or agreement you sign, or a set of reminders you post on a wall where your kids can see them, the point is that you and your children share and follow a set of expectations of how to responsibly use the Internet. If you would like an agreement to review with your child you can download one here.
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