Surfing Safely

A lot is done to teach kids on how to be safe is this troubled world of ours.  Children are taught how to safely cross the road, not to talk to strangers and wear helmets when riding their bikes.

But what about when kids are online?  Beyond the family desktop or Mommy’s laptop, kids have a unprecedented number of access points to the internet.  The smartphone, the tablet and even the smart TV are all connected to the World Wide Web.

Threats abound in many forms.  Porn, violence and hate speech are all inappropriate content for young children.  The success of social media has given rise to cyber bullying and cyber baiting.  And, let’s not forget, the threat of plain overexposure.

Scary ins’t it?  But fear not.  Savvy parents can protect their children with some preparation followed by education.

Family PC
You are the administrator of your computer, not your kids.  So, set up separate, restricted user accounts for each of your children to limit the content they can access.  Take it a step further and limit how long they can use the device.  You can also consider installing a monitoring app that reports on all your child’s activity online.

Installing and updating a good anti-virus software is par for the course.  Don’t forget to limit pop ups and require a password to install applications.

Mobile Device
Sadly, most smartphones and tablets do not allow for multi-user log ins.  But, that doesn’t mean that restrictions can be implemented.

All mobile devices should require a password for access; this ensures that you know when your child is using the smartphone or tablet.  

By extension, adjust the setting on your device to require a password to install apps even if they are free.  This should prevent kids from loading apps that may be inappropriate.  iPhones and iPads even offer a feature called Guided Access that can lock children into a specific app so they can't just go scrolling through your handset.

For many, phones and tablets are used for content consumption.  Fussy children get less fussy when watching their favorite video, almost like a digital pacifier.  But when the video finishes and bored kids look for the next thing to watch, make sure that you have already configured the settings to restrict any content rated PG13 or higher.

Keep your location, and your child’s location, private by disabling the GPS tracking setting.  Most devices, by default, include the location data of where pictures and videos are taken embedded in the file.  Nefarious characters can extract that information to build a profile of your activities.  

Smart TVs
Just as the digital cable box allows you to set several restrictions with a PIN to control use of the TV, smart TV’s also have built in parental controls.  Use them.

The best defense against internet threats is education.  Make sure you talk to your children and let them know to:

* never give out personal information online
* never post pictures or video without permission
* never bully others online
* always report rude or suspicious activity

Educate yourself too by sharing experiences with other parents, caregivers and teachers.  Just as you would supervise your child when playing sports, so too must you supervise their activity online.

Children need to be free to explore and learn, within limits designed to keep them safe online.

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