This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.
As we all know by now, the Internet is an excellent tool for business, learning, and entertainment. Not only is it a tool, but it's also an essential part of our lives. Information, connections, and opportunities at the touch or swipe of a finger. As more and more people go online, the age of the average user becomes lower and lower. What is the responsibility we have to safeguard the wellbeing of those that come after us into this new digital age?
Last year, I was out for breakfast with my girlfriend. Across from us was a family of three (mom, dad, and baby girl). The parents were on their cell phones, and the baby, maybe two or three, had a tablet. It made me think, this child will never know a time when she couldn't find or order something by using the device in her hands. She'll never see a time when notifications, news updates, or social media posts were not a part of daily life.
Children face a myriad of threats online. We hear all the time about cyberbullying, predators, and kids, either viewing or sharing "adult material."And while there is no way to 100% protect kids from these things, there are steps we can take.
First are passwords and passcodes. Parents can set these features, making sure their children have to come to them to unlock the device. Giving parents and children those extra moments to discuss online safety.
Many, if not all, tablets and phones produced after 2010, come with some form of parental control. These controls include blocking access to specific websites or blocking particular keywords.
iPhone/iPad/iPod touch: Set Content & Privacy Restrictions
Google Play (Android): Set up parental controls on Google Play
Google Chrome: Change site permissions
Parents and Guardians can purchase age-appropriate devices. Devices like the Amazon Fire Kids Edition or the Samsung Galaxy Kids and the PBS Playtime Pad.
What about Social Media? Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram are very popular. What precautions exist there? The social media platforms include information on privacy and security settings that can make their platforms safer for children. Unfortunately, these settings are not as front and center as they should be. Provided below are links to the security, privacy, and parental control sections of:
Facebook: Messenger Kids Settings
Twitter: Control Your Twitter Experience
Instagram: Tips for Parents
Snapchat: Safety & Education
The official minimum age to use many social media sites is thirteen. But, parents of children of all ages should be on their guard.
Trolls, Predators, Bullys, and Cyber Criminals use Social Media as a tool for harassment and worse. The most important thing you can do to protect kids online is to teach them awareness. To not share personal information. For example, location, school, full name, age, social security number (if they know it), or telephone number.
That it's not okay to talk to strangers online without permission. That it's okay to tell you if someone says something online that upsets them, makes them feel afraid or is just mean.
Online games are another area parents need to be aware of potentially harmful interactions. Microsoft (Xbox), Sony (PlayStation), and Activision Blizzard (World of Warcraft, Overwatch, Call of Duty), and Steam include safety and parental controls.
Microsoft: Simplify your family's life
Activision Blizzard: Parental Controls
Steam: Family View
Tell them not to be afraid or ashamed of telling you or an adult you both trust. Explain to them why it's vital that they speak up. This is no way a complete list, but hopefully, it helps to start the conversation. A conversation we need to have with the next generation of users.