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Should You Monitor Your Kids’ Online Activity?
Do you know what your kid does and sees online? Privacy is important, especially for kids. Building a strong, healthy relationship with your kids means learning how to trust them and how to build their trust in you. When it comes to controlling online activity, however, many parents worry that too much privacy might not be in their child’s best interest.
Parenting in the Age of Information
They don’t call this the age of information for nothing. The internet has opened new realms of information to a world-wide audience. This information is readily accessible in a way that previous generations never could have imagined. Unfortunately, not all of the information available at our fingertips through websites, blogs and social media sites is reliable or safe for a young audience.
Most parents are aware that the internet is full of unrestricted pictures and comments, and of postings that are not appropriate for kids. So how do you walk the line between protecting your kid from objectionable material online and invading their privacy, thus hurting the delicate bond of trust you’ve tried so hard to build with them?
Here are some things to consider when it comes to monitoring your kids’ online activity:
Use Parental Controls
Parental controls on computers and home wireless networks can help better control which games and programs children access. They can also help monitor and control how kids use the internet. Specific time limits can be set for how long children are on the computer and set so that search engines do not find sites with adult content when a search is performed.
Parents can also opt to purchase parental control software to further filter the information their kids access. Another surefire way for parents to stay in the know about what their kids are viewing online is to set up the computer in a family area of the house. When kids use the computer in the living room or kitchen, they know you are close by and you’ll see what sites they’re visiting and who they’re communicating with. Allowing kids to enjoy internet access in the privacy of their own room presents a bigger risk.
Talk to Your Kids about Online Safety
With cyber-bullying becoming a real problem for many school-age children, talking to kids about online safety is more important than ever. As a parent, it’s up to you to teach your children about how to be safe online, just as you once taught them how to safely cross a busy street. Talk to them about the dangers of posting their names, address, phone numbers, where they go to school or work, and other personal information online even on sites that have security settings.
Safeguard your kids from online predators by talking to them about how these predators operate. Tell them to never give personal information to a stranger online and never under any circumstances to meet with a person they’ve met online. In addition, talk to kids about posting inappropriate content such as violent or hate talk, verbal bullying or comments of a sexual nature. Remind them that once they post something, they can never take it back and everything is public and available to an unlimited audience.
Set Clear Guidelines
Set clear and consistent guidelines for kids to follow and set up appropriate consequences when those guidelines are not followed. The same goes for guiding children’s online activities. It’s up to parents to involve themselves in knowing what kids see online and teach them what is acceptable and what is not.
Set clear guidelines and be consistent both in establishing them and enforcing them. Teach your kids how to spot unreliable sources. Tell them exactly what they are allowed to use the internet for and exactly what types of sites, blogs and social media sources are prohibited. If you catch your kids breaking the rules for internet usage, be sure consequences follow.
Monitor Social Media
Spying on your kids can lead to arguments and a real break down of trust, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep an eye on them. People of all ages use social media, so it’s not strange for a parent and child to be members of the same social media sites. This can be a great way to keep your eye on your kid’s activity and make sure they’re being safe and smart online.
Friending your child on social media is an excellent way to monitor their activity and avoid spying. Will your child want you to be his or her friend on social media sites? It depends. Some children won’t care while some will complain. Younger children may be more receptive than tween and teenage kids. Talk to your child first. Explain that you want to join those social media sites and perhaps set up you being a part of their page as a condition of their social media use.
How Much Monitoring is Too Much?
This can be a difficult question for many parents. On one hand, you want to establish trust with your kids. The older your kids are the more they need their privacy. On the other hand, many areas of the internet contain content that isn’t appropriate for young audiences. It is easier than ever for young people to access unsuitable content. In addition, online predators and cyberbullies often make social media sites and forums dangerous for young users.
Following the guidelines above can help ensure that your kid is safe online. Allow your kids to earn trust by making right decisions concerning how they use the internet.
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