4 Ways to Protect Your Children in a Digital World

The internet can be a great place, but it can also be a scary one. Social media, chat rooms, and gaming create opportunities for your kids to be victimized.

Whether they’re targeted by a cybercriminal or a fellow student, malicious online behavior can do lasting harm. That’s why it’s important that kids know how to protect themselves online.

That’s where you, as a parent, come in. It’s your responsibility to ensure your children know how to navigate their online life appropriately, and this article will help you do just that. Here are four ways to protect your kids so they can exist safely online.

1. Buy a Phone That’s Safe

It will happen before you know it: Your child will start begging you for a phone of their own. Purchasing an appropriate device for your child isn’t easy, especially with so many options available. That’s why it’s important to do your research beforehand to ensure any phone you buy is right for you and your child.

To start, think about what you don’t want. For instance, depending on your child’s age, you may not wish them to have access to certain apps or to the internet at all. If that’s the case, you should consider buying a safe phone for kids that blocks access to the internet. Or maybe you want to limit the number of people your child can contact on their phone. Believe it or not, you can find phones that will meet your standards.

Something else you should consider when buying a phone is the price. Think of your child’s first phone as you would their first car. You want it to be safe, but you don’t want to spend too much money on something they might damage. Thankfully, phones range in price, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find one within your budget.

2. Manage Screen Time

Screen dependency has become a common concern in recent years. On average, children between the ages of eight and 12 spend 4-6 hours per day looking at a screen.

At first glance, this might not seem like a big deal. But it’s important to remember that children are incredibly impressionable when they’re young. They don’t have the life experience, or maturity, to understand the difference between make-believe in reality. Nor are they necessarily aware of how to protect themselves against strangers.

A great way to manage screen time is to set up screen limits for your child. Luckily, there are several ways you can do that. For one, you can download an app that can help you create time limits. Certain phones will also let you create a time range for when your child can use their phone and when they can’t.

Some parents manage screen time by physically keeping their child’s phone and only letting them use it at certain times. For example, maybe you hang onto your child’s phone when they’re at home but let them have it when they go somewhere without you. Or you sequester their phone at night so they’re not tempted to scroll instead of sleep.

3. Educate Your Child

One of the best ways to protect your child’s data online is by educating them. While children are becoming increasingly tech-savvy, that doesn’t mean they understand everything about the internet. That’s where you, the parent, can help. Take time to teach your kids about potential online dangers. From cyberbullying to hackers, it’s important they know what’s out there and how to protect themselves.

Sadly, cyberbullying is far from uncommon. And contrary to popular belief, cyberbullying is just as serious as regular bullying, even though it happens behind a screen. Almost 40% of children associate cyberbullying with depression, which can have a severe impact on their overall mental health. Show your kids know what cyberbullying looks like and encourage them to report it if they see it.

You should also advise your kids to keep personal information like their home address, school, and phone number private. It’s all too easy for a hacker to use information your child reveals online to steal their, or maybe your, identity. Strangers could also use their information to form a connection with your child. The internet can be a dangerous place, and your kids need to know that.

4. Use Parental Controls

Today, most phones come with some type of parental controls. For instance, if your child has an iPhone, you can go under “Settings” and implement safeguards for your child. For instance, you can allow access to certain apps while blocking others you aren’t comfortable with them using.

Creating content restrictions will ensure your kids don’t come across mature websites, whether intentionally or unintentionally. You can also schedule mandatory downtime. For instance, if your child’s bedtime is 9 p.m., you can schedule their phone to go on dark mode at 8:30.

If you purchase your child a phone that doesn’t have parental controls, you can always install them later. There are several apps that will monitor your child’s online activity to ensure they’re protected. That said, before you download anything, make sure you do your research. There are a lot of parental control options out there, so look for features that will best meet your needs.

You should also consider letting your child know you’re using parental controls. Yes, you’re the parent and thus have the final say. Still, it’s better to be upfront with your child. Plus, talking about parental controls can help create an open dialogue on following safe online habits.

As you doubtless realize, technology isn’t going anywhere. Instead of trying to keep your kids away from tech, teach them how to use it safely. The tips above will help you do that.