Oh, wow! Little Jimmie just started taking his first baby steps. My gosh! He’s already started to speak. Oh, my! Today he learned how to play a game on your smartphone. And before you know it, little Jimmie will be old enough to start surfing the net on his own, and as the parent, you don’t want him to go in headstrong without realizing the dangers of the Internet.
Children are naturally curious, there’s no cure for that. But putting that curiosity to good by placing some safeguards and taking precautions will ensure healthy development for your child. Since everything around us is facilitated by technology, your child will have to learn about the safe use of the Internet sooner or later. The sooner they learn how to use it the right way, the better it is not only for their, but also for your security. You might wonder how your security may get compromised because of an online mistake by your preschooler. We’ll cover that as well.
Before we discuss ways to protect your child while they are online, let’s go over some important details about Internet safety, use, and dangers.
Why is the Internet important?
Obviously, you know why the Internet is important for our lives, but can you vocalize that in words and explain that to your children? If yes, that’s great, read on. If not, you’ve come to the perfect place.
Let’s go back to the creation of the Internet. It’s not a history lesson, only the purpose behind its creation. The Internet was created as a system that allows the facilitation of information over long-distance computers connected by a network. The fancy games and shopping websites came much later in the Internet’s evolution. Its first purpose was information sharing.
Accessing information is also the primary reason anyone should use the Internet, children included. What’s the first request your middle schooler will make when it comes to this? “Pa, I need a computer to help with my homework”. And they are not wrong in requesting that. Even schools have integrated an online infrastructure that necessitates the use of the Internet.
So, the reason why you are allowing your child to have Internet access in the first place should be clear. It’s for educational purposes at this stage and should remain so for most of their lives. Of course, there will come a time when your child has grown up and become independent. You won’t have the same control and authority over them at that stage, so it’s wise to prepare them for competent and responsible use of the Internet that protects them from harm even when they start understanding their way around the world.
Dangers of the Internet
Speaking of information, let’s talk about ‘sensitive’ information. You have probably heard the term before, but if you’re still scratching your head about the ‘sensitive’ part, here’s why it’s called that.
Sensitive information is everything private and personal to you. Login usernames and passwords, email IDs, credit cards, financial information, search history, Social Security number, home address, family relations, and so on.
Why do you hide your PIN from prying eyes when using card machines? Because it’s sensitive information. You can’t afford other people to have access to it.
Well, you’d be surprised about the number of times your data has already been breached on the Internet. Why is this possible? Because the Internet has a digital record of literally every piece of information or data about us. There’s really no workaround for that since all our daily operations depend on it. But you can do amazingly well when it comes to safeguarding it. If you are curious about the public data already available on you or someone you know, try Nuwber and see what comes up.
As far as children are concerned, a few accidental clicks and SWOOSH! All your personal information has been leaked. Not a pleasant occasion, is it? Now you are confused between screaming at your child or despairing over your carelessness to allow them Internet access without educating them about it.
With that unpleasant example, let’s take a look at different ways you can protect your child while they are online.
1. Keep separate devices for them
Buy entry-level devices with limited functionality for them so that they don’t accidentally misuse the information stored on your personal ones. Let’s start with a simple desktop computer before you buy them a Macbook Pro. Make sure to set up the device yourself while your child observes so that they can learn from you all the while you take care of any threatening or potentially harmful features that your child might not understand yet.
2. Parental controls
You will find this in every child online safety guide and article because it is an absolute must. It’s a simple feature. There are in-built parental control settings in Google, and since every device has Google pre-installed, you shouldn’t have difficulty finding it. Just search ‘parental control’ in the search bar if you still can’t find it. While the default parental settings will provide you with some insightful features, apps from other developers will give you an even bigger selection. So, your next step is to set up parental controls on your child’s device, or even your own if you decide to let them use yours.
3. Check out reviews on software, apps, and games
If something is harmful about an app or game, previous users might have already pointed it out in the reviews. This is a great way of assessing whether you should allow your child to install something they wish. Of course, just saying ‘no’ is not nurturing enough. Educate them on the harm and explain why it’s not the right choice to install it.
This is all part of their education. The more you teach them, the more they’ll grow. First, take the time to understand safe internet use protocols and then teach them to your children. Saying ‘no’ to everything will only work till a certain age, but if your child internalizes a concept very early on, it will remain with them for all their lives. Educating them is the best option before you take any other step.
As much as you’d like to delay it, your child will use the Internet someday. To protect them, it’s important to begin their Internet education early on, even before an actual need like school homework arises. That’s the best way to go.