The internet can be a great resource for developing minds. Children can form connections and find a wealth of information online. However, there is a dark side to having an infinite amount of information and access to others. With the internet being more a part of our lives than ever before, it’s vital to ensure your child’s online safety. Here are our tips for helping your child stay safe online:
Talk About Internet Safety
The first step in keeping your child safe is talking to him about safety. When your child first accesses the internet, start talking about what he’s reading, watching and doing online. Listen to your child’s thoughts on what he wants to do online. Each family handles this differently, but it helps if you establish clear rules. Discuss online behavior and its effects on offline life. Talk about online reputation, emphasizing that everything your child posts will be public and permanent. Remind your child that everyone he talks to online is a real person, so any hurtful comments he makes could have a long-term impact.
Track Your Child’s Online Habits
Keep the computer your child will be using in a central part of the house where you can monitor his activity. Check the browser history to make sure he’s not seeing anything he shouldn’t be. Aside from the websites and apps your child is using, pay attention to how much time he’s spending online. One way to do this is by setting a timer for each session for an agreed upon amount of time, like 30 minutes or an hour. When time is up, say so, and be firm. When it’s bedtime, consider turning off the Wi-Fi so the whole family can get offline for the night.
Know Who Your Child’s Online Friends Are
Before your child gets online, inform him that not everyone online is who they say they are. Look for warning signs, like spending long hours online at night, phone calls from strangers, and your child shutting off the computer when you walk in. Human trafficking is a growing problem that affects teens everywhere, even Central Florida, so it’s important to look out for the signs and have a conversation with your child. Talk to him about saying no, getting out of uncomfortable situations, and letting a teacher or parent know when something suspicious happens around him. Even if it doesn’t affect him directly, reporting suspicious behavior can save a life.
Along with the threat of human trafficking, cyberbullying is an issue for children, both being bullied and becoming the bully. Become friends with their social media accounts, and monitor their posts. If your child or his friends post something inappropriate, try to talk about it in private and offline. You want to be a trusted advisor, not an embarrassing parent.
Find the Parental Controls
The good news is that parental controls are readily available. Internet service providers typically offer parental controls, so that’s a great place to start. Figure out how they work, and look into additional options like browser plugins and website filters to keep your child protected. Bookmark their favorite websites so they can easily access them. While you have a certain amount of control over what happens in your home, keep in mind that these filters aren’t perfect, and your child will be using the internet in other places, like at school and at friends’ houses.
Help Your Child Protect Themselves
To keep your child safe online, help them protect themselves. Tell your child why it’s important not to share information like their full name, location and school with strangers online. Show them how privacy filters work. No matter how hard we try, sometimes inappropriate messages get through. Teach your child how to report these types of messages and block accounts. At our Orlando Catholic school, we believe the internet can be a great resource for children, as long as they use it responsibly.
St. Charles Borromeo, an Orlando Catholic school located in the Catholic Diocese of Orlando, is more than just a place to learn; it’s a community. Our staff is committed to proclaiming the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. We believe in teaching the whole child and want students to love learning, helping them grow into well-rounded, contributing members of society. Learn more about us by contacting us here.