With easy access to the Internet, remote learning becomes a workable solution to keep kids’ education going. However, this also puts our little ones at a higher risk of pre-existing online safety hazards, including inappropriate content, predators and bullies. Now more than ever, parents have to be extra vigilant and knowledgeable to reinforce cyber safety for kids at home. This guide has the essentials you need to keep your young students secure.
Children have long been targets of cybercriminals and various risks online, even before the rise of homeschooling. Records of cyberbullying in Australia, for instance, emphasised that one in every five children has experienced threats or abuse while on the Internet. Common attacks include hurtful messages, rumour spreading, exclusion and humiliation.
Guide to Cyber Safety for Kids
Without a doubt, the Internet can be a dangerous, scary place. But you and your kids can work together to stay alert and in control. Here’s how.
Teach online safety measures to your kids
Combatting Internet hazards requires teamwork. It’s not enough that you know what software tools or settings can protect your kids online. Your children need to learn about these safety measures, too. Make sure to add these tasks to your checklist.
- Show them how to lock your Wi-Fi. Tell your kids that an unsecured Wi-Fi connection is like leaving the front door open and inviting strangers inside. Next, let them have fun coming up with the strangest Wi-Fi name. Teach them how to create strong passwords and make sure to turn the encryption on as well.
- Inform them about online privacy settings. Let your kids check the applications or software that they use, then show them how to choose the best privacy settings for each. Remind them to do the same thing to every online tool they’ll download in the future.
- Let them inform you of suspicious emails. If the kids are using emails to get learning materials and school announcements, chances are they’ll get spams and phishing emails, too. So, as a precaution, ask them not to open emails from unknown senders without letting you know about them first.
- Train them to be cautious when giving personal info. Inform the kids that anyone can easily find them or your family by giving their school’s name or home address. Ask them to limit personal details to people they know. Also, instruct them to turn off geotagging features of some apps and social media platforms. Then make sure to teach them the habit of thinking before sharing information or photographs online as well.
Install an anti-virus software
Reinforcements can help you implement cyber safety for kids successfully. One of which is reliable anti-virus software. With this installed, you get an extra layer of protection from hackers, malware and similar forms of online hazards.
It also prevents your kids from accidentally accessing inappropriate online content, which comes in handy when you’re not around. Installing parental control software is also advisable. Whichever software you decide to use, make sure to check it for updates.
Stay updated on your kids’ online activities
Lack of communication is often a hindrance to your goal of ensuring cyber safety for kids. In most cases, fear prevents your children from sharing crucial online experiences. So, drive that away by making yourself available to talk and listen to them anytime.
Ask them about their online school activities for the day, including the things they learned, apps they’ve used and people they talked to or met. It’s also best to get to know their online contacts and social media friends.
Take this daily sharing an opportunity to inform them of what is okay and what’s not. If they make a mistake or inadvertently disobey your Internet safety rules at home, teach them how to do better next time. Doing this not only trains your children to be cyber smart at an early age but also prevents potential risks from happening or escalating.
Ready your anti-cyberbullying strategy
Even with regular updating, most kids choose not to open up when a cyberbully is involved. In this case, you need to be extra observant. Pay attention to cyberbullying signs. Ask them specific questions about what happened and how they felt about it. It’s essential to let the kids know that you are there for them, and together, you can do something to address it.
Your action depends on the situation and its gravity. For instance, you can unfriend or use settings to block the cyberbully. You may also report it to concerned authorities such as the website or page administrators, school heads or law enforcement officials. Seek professional guidance if your kids need more help to recover. More importantly, surround them with loving family and friends.
Keep in mind, though, that a cyberbully needs attention and care as well. Be just as observant for red flags that your kids may be picking on someone. Take the same non-confrontational approach to know the reasons for their behaviour. Offer your support to help them deal with their feelings and apologise to people they’ve hurt. If needed, seek professional help or contact appropriate authorities for assistance.
Learn how to handle online predators
This one is yet another online security concern that you can address with parent-and-child teamwork. Make sure to set up Internet safety rules for your kids when using photo apps and chat rooms. Let the kids understand what safe online interaction is and what is not. Remind them not to respond or meet with people they do not know. Also, ask your kids to inform you if a stranger sends them a message online.
If they become a target, stay calm but act swiftly. Reassure your kids that what happened is not their fault, and you can both do something about it. Cut off their communication with the sexual predator and change all relevant usernames and passwords. Make sure to have screenshots of messages or pictures from the perpetrator. Support your kids throughout and help them recover with a professional if necessary.
Set an online time limit
The less time spent online, the easier it is for us to ensure cyber safety for kids. According to Australia Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines, children age 5 to 17 should have no more than 2 hours of screen time every day. So, talk to your kids and agree on a definite schedule for using the Internet, laptops and mobile phones. Choose one that works best for your household, and make sure to monitor your kids, especially younger ones.
To ensure everyone gets enough rest, turn off the Wi-Fi at night. Then dedicate time for screen-free family activities like cooking snacks, reading books or playing board games. You can keep them preoccupied with other productive tasks, like gardening or household chores, too.
Be their role model
Finally, our children learn by example. And so, parents like us must display the same online behaviour that we want our kids to emulate. That, of course, includes showing respect to people we interact with online and limiting our screen time.
Add your kids to your social media circle, so they’ll learn how to share info and use social media platforms responsibly. Include them when chatting or calling loved ones online, too. This way, they will understand that online exchanges should be fun and friendly.
The Internet may have renewed our parenting tactics and, perhaps, added to our worries. But with our guidance and know-how, our kids can make the most of technology and avoid its dangers.