There has always been some level of fearmongering when it comes to the role of the internet in modern life. Usually, this has been drastically overblown, often by a couple of fringe cases that whip the media up into a frenzy. However, there is no mistaking it: the internet is changing. More companies are collecting data than ever, online activity is centralized around a few platforms, and the habits of young people using the internet are being shaped differently. It’s important for a parent to be vigilant about their children’s digital lives, and here are a few ways to do just that.
Keep all of your devices and apps updated
Digital threats tend to most often take advantage of people’s gullibility and lack of scrutiny of the information and assets they are presented with. However, sometimes, hackers will crack through security gaps in the hardware and software that we use. As such, that’s why it’s vital to make sure that you update your electronic devices and apps whenever they offer the option to. Updates aren’t just for the sake of usability and efficiency, they often also come with security improvements that can close gaps that cybercriminals might try to take advantage of.
Tell them about the threats out there
Although many would certainly argue that the panic we had around the internet when we were growing up was certainly exaggerated, largely, there’s no doubt that it actually helped most of us become a lot more internet savvy. There’s a prevailing theory that younger generations are actually more gullible to online threats because they have grown up with constant access to the internet, but not the same kind of cautions and fears that we have. As such, doing a little to scare them about what can happen on the internet, and teaching them about the risks out there could be just what is needed to correct the lack of scaremongering. As overblown as it might have been, it ended up playing a practical role for a lot of us.
Do not feel bad about tracking their digital footprint
As children get older, they may deserve and have a right to some privacy to live their lives without constant scrutiny. However, as long as you are their guardian, this is a privilege to be earned through conscientiousness and good behavior. As such, if you’re not certain they’re at that point, yet, you shouldn’t feel bad about taking steps to secure your family with apps that track their online activity. You can keep an eye on their messages, photos, online activity, and what they’re downloading and uploading to make sure that they’re not making any mistakes that could have serious ramifications for their future. At some point, you have to be willing to be the parent that enforces real discipline.
Put some gates on what they can and cannot see
There’s a lot of content out there that’s not fit for young eyes to see. If you’re worried about what your kids might access, then you can block sites on their devices. Take the time to search for website blockers that match the device that your child uses. Then, look up lists of sites that you should be blocking. If you do a little Googling on this subject, you will find a lot of lists with a lot of websites to add to the block. Of course, if you’re looking at their browsing and search history (ensuring that they’re not deleting it) then you might find more to add to the list as you go.
Set rules about what they can and cannot post
Although the internet might be a lot more moderated nowadays, it’s also a lot more widely used, which means that your child is more likely to see content that’s not meant for them, even if you do have parental and browsing locks on. As such, you can’t just pretend that they’re never going to come into contact with that kind of content, you can only talk to them about what is and isn’t okay to share or to engage with. Sexually explicit, violent, discriminatory, and harassing content are all things that you should cover with them, to make sure that they know the rules that could get their phone or laptop taken off them.
Be willing to take it away
As connected as our kids are nowadays, a lot of parents are hesitant to take away phones, laptops, and other devices that can connect online. However, if they break rules that are clearly established or do anything online that shows a serious lapse in judgment, then you should be ready to follow it up by removing their access to the internet. Don’t be surprised if they use every trick in the book to try and get online, such as saying that their homework has to be done and submitted online. If it does, simply let them use your own device, but supervise them with the right website blockers on until they are done.
Ensure they don’t believe everything they read
Misinformation is spreading across the internet at a faster rate than ever, and getting into the wrong conversation and content loops can be genuinely detrimental to your child’s long-term outlook and beliefs. Moreover, not addressing internet content with a degree of skepticism is going to make them a lot more vulnerable to phishing scams and other efforts to target the gullible as well. Don’t assume that your child is smart enough to be able to tell what to trust and what not to trust. The internet tends to do a good job of presenting everything on the same kind of equal footing. You have to teach them how to vet what they read online, and to help them develop that sense themselves.
Vigilance as a parent in the modern age means knowing what your kids are doing online, teaching them about safety, ensuring good digital security, and limiting access when necessary. If you’re not willing to do that, then you are putting your kids at risk online, whether you like it or not.