According to a new study, children as young as four are using social media for up to 21 minutes every day. With many risks associated with the internet, we know just how important it is to protect our little ones from stumbling upon something that could harm them. Here, we round up the best ways to help keep your child safe online.
[In Partnership with ExpressVPN]
Children and teens spend more time in front of screens than ever before. Besides encouraging e-learning for school work (especially post-pandemic), the internet has become a great way for kids to keep in touch with friends and family and supply endless hours of fun through games and apps.
ExpressVPN’s study found that 87% of parents allow their children to watch videos online, and over 80% allow their kids to play online games. In comparison, 28% say they have no problem giving their children access to the internet so that they can read stories and news articles.
Only a small percentage of parents surveyed allow their children to have social media accounts. It’s likely that many children are creating their accounts without their parents knowing, especially since almost all social media platforms require the user to be over 13 years of age.
The need for parents to be vigilant about internet safety is well known. However, as the world of social media is increasingly being accessed by children still in primary school and even preschool, a whole new list of online issues has arisen.
The study found that 22% of children admit to being bullied online, 17% of children have had a stranger ask which school they go to, and 14% have even been asked for their home address.
In the UK, some of the platforms where children say they experience these negative scenarios most frequently include:
- Roblox (34%)
- YouTube (34%)
- TikTok (25%)
- Fortnite (21%)
- Facebook (16%)
5 Best Ways to Keep Your Child Safe Online
These days, a child’s exposure to the Internet and social media is inevitable. While we can’t stop them from accessing them altogether, there are great ways to keep them as safe as possible. Here are some ways to keep your child safe online.
Set Up Parental Controls
Parental controls are a godsend when keeping your children safe online! By using this feature, you can help limit the amount of screen time that your child has and also control what they are exposed to online.
By using parental controls on your children’s devices and social media accounts, you can:
- Manage the content that your child has access to.
- Block apps that feature inappropriate content.
- Set specific times that your child can access the internet for social media, browsing, and gaming.
It is worth noting that parental controls aren’t limited to social media accounts. You can also set them up on game consoles, specific apps and sites, search engines like Google, and even your broadband or Wi-Fi.
Encourage Open Communication With Your Child
Of course, we all know that it is important that your children feel comfortable enough to share anything with their parents. This should also translate to their online usage.
Encourage your child to be honest and transparent about worrying, suspicious or upsetting things they may encounter online.
If you’re struggling to get your child to open up to you, here are a few tips:
- They may be embarrassed to talk about it, so ask them to note it down on a piece of paper and pop it in a container so you can read it when they leave the room.
- Similarly, tell your child they are welcome to text or email you with any concerns.
- If they would rather talk to someone else, make them aware of charities such as Childhelp USA or ChildLine UK. Explain that these services can provide support with guidance with their issues.
Remember: Strange Danger, Even Online
The term ‘stranger danger’ is a term that parents drill into their kids from a young age, but as more children are socialising online rather than out and about, it’s important that this rule is shifted online too.
Make sure your child knows it is very important to only accept friend requests from people they know and, if they’re unsure, to ask a parent or guardian.
Important points to explain to your child about strangers online:
- Let your child know that It is very easy for people to lie about their age when making a social media profile, which means there is a chance that adults can pretend to be a child or teenager. Don’t always believe what you read.
- Encourage your child to be mindful of what they share online. While they think they are harmlessly sharing their fun-filled plans and memories, it is possible that strangers online can use their posts to track them.
- If your child has access to online chats, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, ensure they are aware of the dangers. To keep an eye on them, we suggest always checking in on who your child is messaging and taking the device away from them at night.
- Make sure your child knows to come and tell you straight away if they suspect that a stranger is messaging them and trying to engage in conversation. Also, remind them that under no circumstances should they agree to meet anyone in real life that they’ve met online.
Choose a Safe Username for Your Child’s Account
A child’s social media username shouldn’t give away too much information about their personal identity. If their name is Ellie May Jones and they were born in 2013, their username for their account or gaming app shouldn’t be along the lines of ‘EllieMayJones13’, for example. This username format gives away too much information about the user and can make it easier for online predators to track information.
Instead, they could use their first name or nickname, the name of a pet or favourite character, and their lucky number!
Use a VPN
A VPN, or virtual private network, will route your online traffic through a secure tunnel. This means that not only will downloading a VPN keep your family members safe when they’re online, encrypting all data, but it will increase anonymity by giving your devices a new IP address in another location.
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