Reading Time: 4 minutes
Studies have shown that screen use among children has increased 500% during this time, with 50 percent of kids spending more than 6 hours online a day. Parents are facing more struggles than usual managing their child’s screen time and keeping them safe online.
As a mother of two boys who love their devices, I start with the concept of the tablet “passcode” – to let them know that it is not freely accessible to them all the time. “Amma has to unlock the tablet for you,” I tell them.
To help you with your families, here are a few tips for parents and guardians to set up the right controls and simple privacy practices to give your children a safer online experience.
Tip #1: Start conversations about privacy early
Take an active interest and have healthy dialogues with your child about his or her online life, what is being shared and with whom. It is also important to talk about respecting the privacy of others online, such as their friends. This would encourage children to talk to parents/guardians if they are worried or in doubt.
Tip #2: Double down on your devices’ security
Encourage your child to choose a strong password and install the latest security features to secure the privacy of their devices. Never share them with anyone. Regularly run a security check (once a week is recommended!) to ensure that there are no threats on the devices.
For parents with younger elementary ages, set your child’s device up with password control so you know they’re safe online, and disable in-app purchasing so big bills are not run up accidentally.
Tip #3: Don’t provide apps access to everything on your device!
Downloading a new application/software may prompt for requests to access location or the photo gallery, or even permission to record audio or video automatically. A picture-editing app for example will require access to your phone camera and media files to be able to edit pictures but not all apps require such access. Encourage your child to always be suspicious and disable access if not required for the new applications/software to function properly
Tip #4: Always think twice before downloading and opening files
Avoid downloading and opening files (.exe) unless it is from a trusted site. (Note: .exe files contain instructions that that get your device to do something once you click on it – even sharing files without you knowing!) Hackers can easily access your data when you download and open malicious software on a PC, laptop, or smartphone. Sophisticated malware is powerful and can either relay information back to the hacker or even turn on your webcam.
Tip #5: Be careful what and how much personal information you share online
Ensure that your child understands what personal information is and why it is important to refrain from disclosing personal information. When registering or signing-up for a new site for example, they may be prompted to share private information such as their name, mobile number, home address, or a photo of themselves. Advise them to always check with you if they’re unsure.
Tip #6: Protect yourself with privacy settings on social media
Guide your child to go through privacy settings on social media accounts and make everything as private as possible. Location tagging in a post, for example, could expose their whereabouts. Limit access to trusted friends and family only as well as blocking unwanted contents. Always check the default setting.
Tip #7: Refrain from oversharing online
Caution your child against oversharing photos on social media – whether their own or their friend’s. It can compromise their privacy and even their personal safety in some cases. Don’t share photos of others without their consent.
Parents should also practice what they preach and prevent ‘sharenting’ – posting their children’s pictures online. Photos shared today will be a part of your child’s digital footprint in perpetuity. Remember: everything you do on the internet can be accessed by anyone and stays there forever.
Tip #8: Browse secure websites
Whenever your child is browsing a website, advise them to choose websites that start with https:// rather than http:// as this indicates that the website is “secure”. On some browsers like Google Chrome, an icon of a padlock will be visible if the site is encrypted or in simple words, secure.
Let’s use technology wisely!
Technology is a powerful tool to help us connect to what matters most and it is especially important during these times when we communicate online more than ever before. Let’s equip our families with the right knowledge to make good and safe use of technology, take control of what they share online and help our children build a positive online reputation that will support their future education or career aspirations.