A lot of our parenting skills and techniques, for better or worse, come from the way we were raised. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have much relevant experience with Internet safety for kids. Technology changes quickly, and kids’ use of the Internet has grown rapidly. Many adults don’t know how to keep themselves safe on the Internet, never mind their kids.
You can take a three-pronged approach to Internet safety for children that includes hardware, software, and education:
- Hardware blocks content, manages WiFi usage throughout the day, and monitors usage.
- Software also monitors usage (including social media), places controls, and alerts you to issues.
- Education and support can help you set expectations with your kids, teach them healthy habits, and continually monitor behavior.
1. Hardware for online safety
The first line of defense is in your router or your Xfinity Wireless Gateway. Depending on the hardware, you may be able to:
- Create user profiles to allow different settings for different users.
- Block certain types of websites and content.
- Set WiFi access hours for each profile.
- Limit the amount of time spent online for certain profiles.
- Monitor usage and activity in each profile.
- Disable WiFi usage on an ad hoc basis, such as during dinnertime.
2. Internet safety software
You can also use Parental Control software tools that are hardware-independent. These can range from stand-alone apps to software that can monitor online subscriptions and features offered by your Internet Provider. They typically overlap with hardware solutions. Some of their features include:
- Content and website blocking.
- Time limits for WiFi use or for specific apps or software, like games and videos.
- Social media monitoring tools and other programs that track visited sites and usage time.
- Alerts for certain behaviors or language, including on social media sites.
3. Internet safety education and support
While these tools are incredibly useful, you’ll also need to teach your kids how to use the Internet responsibly and support them as they eventually get more freedom. Set reasonable expectations that give kids room to explore and express themselves, while remaining safe online. These tips will get you started:
- Create a family contract that lays out expectations, including your right to have passwords for access to all their accounts, and the requirement that children ask permission before installing new software or apps.
- Explain the dangers that exist online and any concerns you have in age-appropriate terms. Emphasize that kids should not share personal information such as address, phone number, school name, or their location at any given time. Remind them that anything they share, including photos, can be on the Web forever.
- Do your homework on new websites and apps. Check that they are age-appropriate and safe.
- Monitor your kids’ behavior online and re-adjust expectations as necessary.
- Explain that bullying behavior isn’t OK, even when it seems like they’re anonymous.
- Help kids find a balance between their online activities and other areas of their lives. Model healthy behaviors by putting away your devices during dinner and family activities.
Keeping your kids safe online is an ongoing — and not always easy — process. Combining the right tools with smart parenting will help ensure that your kids are safe on all their devices and can grow into savvy, independent adults.