Internet safety for kids: a guide for parents
These days, everyone is spending more time online—kids included. Thanks to the pandemic, many kids now have online accounts for school, social media, and gaming, which means overwhelmed parents have yet another job to juggle—keeping track of their children's online activity. How are they communicating online? What are they sharing and with whom? To help relieve that headache a little, we've put together some practical guidelines to help you take control of your kids' safety online.
4 to 8-year-olds
Children in this age group might begin to explore the internet on their own, though it remains important, especially for the youngest in this demographic, that they do so under adult supervision. Parents should be close by when kids browse the web—not only to make sure they're on age-appropriate sites, but to be on hand in case they encounter frustration while trying to access online resources. Young children have an extremely limited understanding of computers and the internet, to say nothing of cyber-security. That's why it's important to talk to kids about safety online in the same way you would about dangers in the physical world. If you teach your kids not to talk to strangers, the same rule applies in the virtual world. You can also use the parental controls on the HomePass app to block or approve websites and set age-appropriate content filters.
8 to 12-year-olds
For this age group (and for younger children who may now have school accounts) monitor and potentially limit the number of accounts your kids have. Beyond school accounts, what other accounts have they opened? What kind of information have they shared? Whether kids are signed into a school or gaming account, check to see if they've uploaded videos or photos that reveal personal information or details that put them at risk. As kids get older, the lure of popular games like Roblox and Minecraft opens up even more potential dangers. In online games, it's easy for adult predators to pose as kids and chat with underage users. Some of these platforms may also expose kids to inappropriate adult content and cyber-bullying. Consider turning on filters that restrict access to certain websites. For HomePass members, Guard also automatically filters suspicious activity and quarantines devices that begin to act strangely. Kids in this demographic are also likely seeking greater independence and wanting to establish their own values. They use the internet not only for schoolwork and hanging out with friends, but for exploring their own interests and discovering a wider world. You can help foster this independence and growth, while also teaching them to evaluate what they see online with a healthy dose of skepticism about the credibility of sources. Finally, consider setting limits on how long and how often kids can be online. The HomePass app makes it simple to set internet usage constraints for every member of the family and ensure that kids enjoy a variety of offline activities as well.
13 to 18-year-olds
These are exciting years for both parents and teens, but they're also the ones that require the most balancing acts to guarantee online safety for teens. Parents need to allow their kids to have greater independence while continuing to offer guidance. For example, it's natural for teens to want to explore sexual material, though parents should help frame some concerns first. Parents—in accordance with their own values—should be open to discussing the kind of material kids might encounter online and also about whether internet filters or blockers are still in use in the home. Be sure to also discuss the potential danger of sharing photos with or agreeing to meet strangers offline. In every stage of a child's development, there are unique expectations, challenges, and potential dangers. Proactive parenting helps immensely; so does HomePass, which makes it easier for parents to make smart choices about internet security and keeping their kids safe.