If you’re the parent of a tween, pre-teen, or teenager, you’ve likely had the talk about Internet usage and safety. Chances are your child isn’t too keen on the idea of your “snooping” into what they believe should be private interactions. While you might be feeling a bit squeamish and wondering if you could be invading your child’s privacy, the truth is it’s a cold, hard world out there, and the Internet can often magnify it in ways your child just shouldn't be exposed to.
Here are some reasons why you should be monitoring your child’s Internet usage:
- Online predators. The Internet has become one of the most commonly used tools for child predators. They can easily develop a relationship with your child without your knowledge.
- Bullies. Social media has become a HUGE platform for cyberbullying. As your child is in a very socially sensitive time in their lives, you want to ensure that they’re not getting teased by their peers. (Or that your child is not teasing others)
- Sexting. Your teens might think it’s a cool idea to send a sexy text message or picture to someone they’re dating, but sexting can have serious consequences that can follow your teen for years.
- Personal Information. Your child could unintentionally leave personal information online that could lead to identity theft or make it easy for predators to find them.
- Viruses, Malware, Scams. Like adults, children are also vulnerable to potential viruses, scams, and malware that could wreak havoc on your computer and personal data.
- Inappropriate content. Last, but certainly not least, is the ease of access to inappropriate content. Children can easily access sexually explicit or violent content that is not age appropriate.
Though your children may not understand at this point in time why you need to protect them, the hidden dangers are out there, and failure to put safeguards in place leaves them vulnerable to potential physical and emotional damage.
Methods to Monitor Your Kid’s Internet Usage
Now that you have a better understanding of why it’s important to monitor your child’s Internet use (despite their resistance), let’s look at some efficient ways to do so.
- Mobile Applications – Your child can access the Internet virtually anywhere, and it can be hard for you to be in 10 places at one time. So to give you some peace of mind, there are applications like WebSafety that can help you monitor their usage on multiple devices. By installing such applications, you’re able to monitor your child’s use on multiple platforms and receive real-time alerts when there is danger.
- Parental Controls – Many parents are unaware that they can set parental controls on computing devices. Just as you can set controls on the television to ensure your children are not accessing shows they shouldn’t see, you can do the same for computers and tablets. Simple features allow you to block certain sites and provide you with detailed reports so you can keep track of their search history and usage.
- Location – Where are your children allowed to access the Internet? Do they have a computer in their room? If so, you may want to switch the location. By placing the computer in a centralized area, your children will feel less tempted to access sites or engage in behavior that is not appropriate.
- Time Limits – If you limit the amount of time that your child is allowed to access the Internet, they are less inclined get involved in nonsense. Try to set times that are appropriate for your child’s age. Medical sources suggest no more than two hours of screen time per day for children over the age of two.
- Limit accessibility – Though you can’t control your child’s every move, you can minimize the access they have to the Internet. For instance, eliminating data plans from their cell phones limits their ability to access the Internet on the move.
Technology when parenting teens is like a gift and a curse. You want your child to be socially connected and in tune with the world’s advancements, but you also want to retain their innocence and ensure their safety. Finding compromise in this instance is more about watching how much they access the Internet and what type of content they’re accessing. With the help of some tools and a few ground rules, you should be able to give your teen the “privacy” they so desperately want without compromising their safety or your sanity.