Who remembers when the most dangerous thing you could do with a computer was driving a wagon on the Oregon Trail? At the same time, trying to avoid dying from cholera, dysentery, and typhoid. When the screens were green, it was a simpler time, and stalkers still followed people around at the mall.
These days it is a lot more complicated. The speed at which technology has changed our lives is overwhelming. I purchased my first computer the year after I graduated from college; my third grader is issued a Chrome Book. When kids get to the age of switching on and using a computer, we parents need to start thinking about making sure they are safe online. It's all too easy for kids to stray onto inappropriate websites even after doing a seemingly harmless search. Of course, it has been proven that early use of technology improves social development, creativity, and language skills.
Challenge number one for parents is being aware of the dangers. They are many and varied - everything from meeting strangers in chat rooms, forums, or even spam emails.
Minimizing the potential dangers is a good idea. We can do this by following a simple set of guidelines when your kids use the computer, especially when they are online. The list below isn't meant to be exhaustive, but it's a good jumping-off point.
1. Do not keep computers in bedrooms, instead keep them in a public area where they can be better monitored.
2. Use anti-virus software with a robust content filter ѕuсh аѕ Norton 360. This can help you prevent your children from seeing inappropriate content. Set up a separate login for your children (or one for each), configuring security settings for your content filter for each login, so it is appropriate to their age.
3. Manage your children's screen time. Most devices can monitor and limit your child's screen time.
4. Talk to your kids about the risks and dangers online. Make them aware of how to stay safe online. Here are a few tips that you can talk through with them.
• Never fill in forms with any personal information without your permission. They should not give out their name, address, telephone numbers, school, or anything that could identify them.
• Explain that before giving their email address to any website, they should check with you first.
• Never share their passwords, even with their siblings.
• Never send any photographs to anyone or upload them to a website without your knowledge.
• Know the people that your child communicates with, dates, teachers, friends, family, no one is off limits.
• Encourage them to tell you if they receive any strange messages or come across any websites that display images that make them feel uncomfortable.
• Encourage them to stay away from commenting on offensive or violent social media posts.
• Encourage them to let you know if someone threatens them online.
• Explain to them that they should not always believe what they read online. Just like the real world, sometimes things are not what they seem.
• Tell them not to post messages on bulletin boards without checking with you first.
• Encourage them not to download or install any software without you being there to help them.
Computers, mobile devices, and the internet are fantastic tools they provide humans with sources of education, skill-building, and information. They can be great for kids if used in the right ways. But like most things in the world, there is always a little danger. Using sensible precautions you can help to minimize it.