The Internet can be great tool or a dangerous place for kids. Here are 10 ways to protect children from the dangers of the internet.
My earliest memories of using a computer involved me pecking away on a chunky white keyboard and watching the green or orange letters appear on a plain black screen.
The keys stuck half the time, but it’s how I learned to type. I don’t think I even knew about the world wide web during my elementary days, but I sure loved playing my fair share of Oregon Trail and Tetrus.
My family did not get internet access until I was 17, during my junior year of high school. We used America Online, and we kids thought AOL chat was simply the coolest thing ever invented.
My parents gave us pretty clear warnings about never giving out our real name online and being careful with the people we “met.”
Those were before the days of online bullying and sexual predators, and back then we didn’t get online via cell phones, tablets or eReaders.
We used a very slow, loud dial-up connection, through our phone line. And whenever someone was using the internet it was obvious: The rest of the house couldn’t even use the phone at the same time.
Oh, how times have changed!
Now, the entire family can be online simultaneously! We have desktop computers, laptops, Kindles and Nooks, iPads and iPad minis and cell phones galore–not to mention the internet-operated television systems, like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and Roku!
Our children are literally saturated with an online culture. And we can’t get advice from the generation before us about how to protect them from it. As my friend Emily at Live Renewed mentioned in a group chat (yes–on Facebook!) today:
“I think this is such a hard topic because we are the first generation of parents that are facing how to handle all of this technology with our kids.”
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As we continue our children’s schooling, (since we made the decision to wait until she turned 6 to send her to kindergarten), we have already been thinking about ways we can proactively protect them from potential dangers of the internet while at home as well as away from home.
No, we cannot–and should not–shield them completely from it, but there are things we can do to make sure their eyes are not seeing things they shouldn’t be exposed to. And we can teach them how to responsibly use the internet as one of many ways to protect children from the dangers of the internet.
Check out these 10 ways to protect children from the dangers of the internet:
1. Make family computer rules.
We don’t want our children to constantly be glued to their computers or other electronic devices. Setting ground rules is a must. I can imagine this is much harder for the parents of older children and teens. That is why we much set a precedent now, when they are young.
2. Designate an old computer to your children–or use a separate log-in for your family computer.
We have an older laptop that my husband programmed to only open a handful of tabs with websites our kids can access (like Embark12 and Starfall). They are tech-savvy enough, but this and the Circle keep them from accessing other sites.
Another alternative is to create a separate computer log-in that has more restrictions on it just for your children to use.
We have been using Pinwheel for over a year, and something amazing has happened…our 14-year-old daughter and I agree that Pinwheel is awesome. It is miraculous and amazing!
Introducing technology to kids can be a difficult and confusing journey. It was really important for us to pick a device that mirrored our family’s values and boundaries.
One that gave her freedom with supervision as she learns to use technology responsibly. One that gave us peace of mind as she is away from the house for work, sports, or hanging out with friends while still providing a safe experience with technology.
As we searched and researched (and searched and researched some more) for a phone, we discovered the Pinwheel phone.
I highly recommend Pinwheel as a safe smartphone option that you can trust this holiday season! It’s been a great fit for our family. Pair it with Mint Mobile for an affordable wireless that fits the budget and actually works.
3. Supervise your children while they are using the internet.
This goes for my preschooler and school-age children. I was discussing with some friends the other day how easy it is for my preschooler (yes, preschooler!) to operate the internet-controlled TV channels (like Netflix) and find inappropriate shows.
If we want our children to be protected from the potential dangers of the internet, we have to be mindful of what they are viewing to protect children from the dangers of the internet.
4. Enable a password-log-in for all computers and electronic devices.
We already do this in on our home. If our children want to use the internet to play with an app or watch a movie, they must bring the electronic device to my husband or me for us to enter in the password which will allow them to gain access.
Circle also helps with this because it allows us to view sites they have visited and to turn off internet access on specific devices while leaving it on for others (like our computers).
5. Install a safe web browser.
There are a variety of kid browsers that you can use or extensions on Chrome that filter web searches. The are also extensions that remove all the extra videos and other distractions on YouTube. We will definitely be looking into installing one for our home computers soon as one of the ways to protect children from the dangers of the internet
6. Find out the internet usage rules at your children’s friends’ houses before they go on play dates.
Our children go on very, very few play dates without us present right now, but I know there may come a day when I allow our girls to go over to a friend’s house sans Mommy. We have already decided that we want to know the parents of the children our children play with, and we will not allow them to go play at just anyone and everyone’s houses.
We will want to know the rules that family has in place regarding the internet. Many children aren’t exposed to the dangers of the internet at home–but at other children’s houses.
In addition to friends’ houses, also find out what safety measures grandparents and other relatives have in place.
7. Find out the internet usage policies in your church and other places your family frequents.
When I was a newlywed, I remember some preteen boys in our church getting caught viewing pornography on the youth group laptops. Just because a place seems safe, it does not mean it is safe from the dangers of the internet.
Find out if your place of worship and/or community center, etc. uses any kind of internet filter or employs internet safety rules.
8. Talk to administrators and teachers about the internet usage policies at your child’s school.
I know some–but not all–of you homeschool. If that is the case, you already have this point covered because you are the school administrator and teacher! 🙂
But if you send your children to public or private school, it would not be uncalled for to ask what internet safety measures the school has in place as one of the ways to protect children from the dangers of the internet.
This fall, my little girl will be attending a private, Christian university model school for kindergarten. It is a hybrid homeschool model, where she will attend school part-time, and we will homeschool her part-time. Even though it’s a Christian school, you better believe that I want to know their rules regarding internet usage!
Ask your child’s school administrators questions like:
- How much time do the children spend on the internet each day?
- Do adults supervise the children’s time online?
- Will the children have online homework assignments?
- And–especially important!–Does the school use an ad-free search engine?
There are browsers, search engines and extensions that removes ads and blocks searches from being used for personalized advertising for all.
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9. Institute a screen-free month.
I admit that this one scares me a bit! There are times I need my children to be watching some type of education program, etc., so I can make a phone call. (Did I just admit that? Well, yes, I did!)
But I love Emily’s idea of taking one month to detox from so much screen time. I think summer would be an ideal time since there are so many outdoor activities for children during the warmer months.
10. Speak to your children about the dangers on the internet.
Some people avoid talking to their children about certain issues because they are afraid that bringing them up with increase the child’s curiosity and temptation to look even more.
I think the opposite: There are dangerous things on the internet today, and if we do not tell our children about them, someone else (who may not have their best interests at heart) will.
My children trust me. I have forewarned her about strangers in the grocery store and about cars speeding too quickly down the street.
Why would I also not tell her that the reason Mommy and Daddy have certain rules in place for computer time is to protect her from potential dangers?
You do not have to go into detail (at least at very young ages), but as they have gotten older, we have offered more age-appropriate information. I think our children ought to know we aren’t just trying to keep them from having fun but are using ways to protect children from the dangers of the internet. We are keeping them safe.