Kids are connected to the Internet and using smartphones and tablets at an earlier age than ever before. As a parent, this only adds to your list of things you need to manage and stay on top of.
Sharing personal information about your children freely and letting them browse the web with wild abandon will only lead to problems later on.
Below we illuminate why protecting your children’s digital sovereignty is your responsibility, and give you a few ways you can help to mitigate the negative consequences of Internet and social media connectivity from a young age.
Oversharing Isn’t Your Responsibility
Photo credit: Wilfred Iven
We know how tempting it can be to post pictures or updates about your children online without their consent. In some cases they might not even be old enough to make a conscious decision for themselves. Sharing baby pictures and funny things about what your child said has become the norm.
After all, how will people know about the ridiculous face your new child made if you don’t show them? It’s easy to feel like it’s our fundamental duty as parents to inform the world about every little thing our child does. But, will the short-term value of the additional “likes” you’re getting outweigh the potentially negative consequences you might be subjecting your child to in the future?
How would you feel if your parents broadcasted every detail of your life for the world to see? It can be tempting to overshare every detail about your child’s life, but it’s important to use caution here. If you want to set an example for your child, it’s important that you practice what you preach and remain selective about what you share online. Sometimes, the best way to educate and advise your child is to lead by example.
Keep some things private between you and your family. If you absolutely must share a funny picture of your child wearing an adorable outfit, then at least use a privacy-oriented app like Just10. We take children’s online security seriously. Because of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), we don’t let any children under the age of 14 to sign up.
Beyond being more conscientious about what information you share about your child, it’s important to educate them about the dangers of the internet and how they can be safe online.
Can You Actually Protect Your Child?
Your child might think of the Internet as nothing more than a vast treasure chest of information. A digital entity that has all the answers to their most pressing problems like, “How can I tell if this boy actually likes me?” or “Are the John Green books actually better than movies?”
However, there are hidden dangers lurking amidst the endless cat gifs and funny YouTube videos. We have to watch out for viruses, phishing scams, online privacy scams, virtual bullies, suggestive imagery, offensive language, and much more.
Protecting your child is equal parts communication, setting a good example, and having the right privacy protocols in place.
How to Instill Good Online Privacy Practices
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Your children might be able to pick up your new iPad and instantly know how to use the device. But, this ability to be adept with new devices usually doesn’t necessarily translate over to online privacy and security. Luckily, they have someone who can help them—you!
1. Start While They’re Young
It’s never too early to start hammering the message home about staying safe online. Studies show that parents are now buying their children smartphones as early as eight years old. Yikes! This means that before they even enter middle school, they’re being exposed to new dangers like SMS fraud and malware infections.
One of the best things you can do is to ensure you have appropriate justification for why your child actually needs a smartphone. Keeping the technology out of their hands for as long as possible is a surefire way to know they’re protected.
Additionally, you can warn your children about the dangers of the Internet as soon as they start browsing. Safe browsing practices can be habitual, so by laying a solid foundation you’ll have to worry less about their privacy and safety being compromised into the future.
2. Give Examples of Potential Dangers
Kids are generally more trusting, so there’s a greater chance they might fall prey to an attempt to gain their sensitive information.
Simply listing out the dangers like cyberbullying, sharing inappropriate content, social media depression, and being scammed won’t be as effective as listing the dangers while also giving tangible examples.
For instance, you could describe a cyberbullying situation using examples from their school or group of friends. Or, share a news story dealing with online privacy that focuses around someone their age.
3. Remind Them That What Gets Shared Lives Forever
Anything that’s shared online should be assumed as permanent. Make sure to communicate this clearly. Whatever they share on social media, whether good or bad, can influence their reputation and what others think of them both online and off.
Encourage them to spend some time thinking about what they’re going to post before they actually share it.
Although social media can provide instant gratification. They need to take a long-term approach to their digital lives. You push your children to do well in school, or pick up extracurriculars to increase their chances of getting into a good school and eventually landing a good job. But, do you show them how to handle and manage their digital lives with the same level of diligence?
After all, what your children say and do online can influence their future employment opportunities.
4. Boundaries Can Mean Freedom
Some parents are wary about installing website blockers, limiting wi-fi access, or vetting app downloads. But, putting rules on these types of things will decrease the chances of something negative happening online.
They say that creativity thrives with boundaries. We believe the same is true with the amount of the online world you’re allowing them to safely access.
If you’re the type of parent who doesn’t want to infringe upon your teen, but still wants to keep them safe online, then you’re going to have to rely on how well you communicate with your children. Since the Internet is changing and dynamic, they might be using Facebook messenger one day, and an entirely new app you’ve never heard of the next.
It’s important for them to be able to talk openly about the things they encounter online. For instance, if they come across explicit content, instead of berating them you can use this as a teaching moment. By talking with them openly you can help them realize what’s safe and what isn’t. That way you’re less of a dictator and play more of a Plato-esque role by helping them discover what’s safe and what’s not.
There is no perfect way to make sure your children stay safe online. You may have to give and take certain things, but ultimately you’ll end up advancing toward the direction of keeping them safe and secure.
Get the bonus content: 5 Ways You Can Improve and Protect Your Child’s Online Privacy