3 Parent Fears
Becoming a parent can be one of the most exciting times of life. Having a child can bring days filled with smiles and happy memories. However, becoming a parent also comes with some fears. How can parents protect their children? What must they do to help their child grow and flourish in a safe environment?
Parents worry about their children’s safety, especially online. There is, after all, harmful content out there that isn’t appropriate for kids. They are right to worry because their child is certainly going to be using technology if they aren’t already.
Still, these fears shouldn’t be allowed to rule parents’ lives. From implementing parental controls to buying a safe phone for kids, there are approaches parents can take to ensure their children’s digital safety. Read on to learn how you can kick these three parent fears to the curb.
1. Inappropriate Online Content
There are a lot of things on the internet that kids shouldn’t be exposed to. Parents have good reason to worry about their children encountering violent images, adult content, and explicit language online. How can parents protect their children from seeing inappropriate videos or other content on the internet?
The first step is to teach kids about online safety and establish rules about technology use with them. It’s important to discuss videos or sites that aren’t good for them and why. Explain why violent and sexualized content is inappropriate and harmful to children. Teach them that the internet is a great place for fun and to learn, but that they need to be careful as well.
An easy way to help kids learn to evaluate the content they’re viewing is the Mom and Dad rule. Before going on a site, children should ask themselves one question. “If Mom and Dad were here right now, would they want me to play this game or go on this site?” Chances are, they will know the answer instinctively. By having open discussions about online safety and setting rules about technology, kids are likely to stick to safe online content.
But parents needn’t rely on good instruction and their children’s self-control alone. Tech solutions like OpenDNS Family Shield are also extremely helpful. Family Shield enables parental controls instantly and is pre-configured to block out mature content. The best thing about it is that it’s free to users of the service.
2. Excessive Technology Use
Another common parental fear about children’s technology use is that kids will spend too much time online and on their phone. It’s great that there are fun websites for kids to explore and safe phones for kids. That doesn’t guarantee that children will use them in moderation, though.
The first step to avoiding excessive technology use is to design a schedule with children. Parents may decide, for example, that kids can surf the web or play online games after school and on weekend mornings.
Evenings and bedtime, on the other hand, aren’t good times to be using technology. Parents can explain why sleep is important and how technology used late at night can disturb that sleep. Once kids internalize the schedule, they’ll use their phones and computers in moderation and establish good tech habits for the future.
The second step is to set up parental controls on devices used by children. While designing a schedule helps kids develop good habits, implementing parental controls sets firm boundaries. A child likely doesn’t need to be spending more than an hour on games like Candy Crush. Time limits can easily be set to prohibit prolonged use of apps. The parent can modify these limits at any time on many devices and can extend them temporarily if appropriate.
Parental controls are there to protect kids. After all, kids may innocently forget about the schedule — or they may try to go behind their parents’ backs. Parental controls are the next step to protecting children from harmful online content and electronic devices themselves.
3. Children Talking to Strangers Online
One of the parents’ biggest fears about their children using cell phones is the possibility of running into an online predator or scams. It’s common knowledge nowadays that there are people out there with bad intentions. Is it possible to protect kids from these people? And if so, how?
Before children use a phone or any other connected device, parents should discuss the potential dangers. They should also teach their children what to do if they find themselves in a sticky situation. If someone — known or unknown — asks them for personal information or makes them uncomfortable, they should hang up (or log off) and alert an adult. The next step is to block the numbers of such callers or block their comments online.
Kids need to know what to do in problematic situations, and these discussions will help them in building healthy digital habits. Awareness of online dangers is essential to children’s safety.
A further measure is to use protective software on children’s devices. There are many software solutions out there, such as Qustodio, specifically for protecting children and informing parents. This simple app can be downloaded on cell phones, computers, and tablets to monitor what children are doing in real time. Qustodio allows parents to monitor calls and text messages so they can safeguard their kids from malicious individuals.
The Last, Best Line of Defense
Online filters and healthy digital habits are great, but the best filters are parents.
Parents and children should review kids’ online history together. This review can be done informally by asking kids, “What did you learn online today?” Or “What computer games did you play today?” Alternatively, parents and kids can go online and review the browsing history jointly.
By doing this review, parents will know what their kids are viewing and can ask questions about it. Children learn the expectations associated with technology and know that the content they see will be reviewed by their parents.
Reviewing online history together allows parents to modify rules, discuss issues with their kids, and facilitate their learning. By teaching children about online safety, setting rules, and following up, parents need not worry about their children viewing harmful content.
Parenting is both a privilege and a profound responsibility. Parents should take the time to protect their children online and the necessary actions to keep them safe. When they’ve done so, they can set many of their worst fears aside.