3 Things You Can Do Today to Keep Kids Safe Online
You know there are potential dangers when allowing your kids to use the internet. You know the importance of keeping them safe from predators. You also know that it’s nearly impossible (and many times not desirable) to keep them totally offline.
So what do you DO with that knowledge? What tangible steps can you actually take to help keep your kids safe online?
Here are three things you can implement in your home today that will make a measurable difference in your family’s internet safety efforts.
1. Charge devices in common areas
Always, and we mean ALWAYS set up a charging station in your home. It can be an actual locked box you order for your family, a fun station that allows you to charge all in one place, the kitchen counter, or your nightstand. The design doesn’t matter. The key is to have a designated time that devices must come to the charging station, and that they stay there for the duration of the night. This keeps devices out of kids’ bedrooms, and ensures that internet usage can be better monitored.
The biggest pitfall parents encounter in this tactic is consistent enforcement. You can’t fall asleep watching Netflix while your kids surf the net. Set a reminder each night to grab all devices or instruct kids to do this before the designated time. This way you know your kids are safe and not visiting places online you don’t approve of, or talking to a stranger.
2. No internet in the bedrooms
“20 years ago kids were safe in their bedrooms, now with the internet and social media, they are not.” Glen Pounder, VP of Impact, Child Rescue Coalition
We always recommend that internet usage be carried out only in common areas. The family computer, gaming consoles, etc. should be placed in a living room or area of high traffic, as opposed to a bedroom or office where a door can be closed. But how do you manage portable devices like phones, tablets, and laptops? The same way.
Any device that has access to the internet, or the ability to chat should be used in common spaces. Kids are far less likely to engage in risky behavior, or feel pressured to comply with inappropriate requests when they know other family members could walk by. This isn’t to say “no privacy” but rather, set kids up in an environment that promotes healthy interactions online, and removes temptation. The single best strategy to combat your child from being groomed is to insist that all devices be used in common areas of the home.
3. Know all passwords and logins to every account
Hopefully your family never experiences an issue – your kids stick to the technology rules you put in place and never run into a tricky “friend” or online predator. But if they do, and you have to involve a school resource officer or investigator, the first thing parents are asked for is access to all accounts.
Phone passcodes, email passwords, and the logins to all gaming platforms or social media accounts. This is especially helpful in locating missing children, and trying to identify predators. It also allows your kids to know that in your home you have an open door and open device policy.
This is a hard one for all of us, but let’s face it, allowing kids to be online playing video games or on social media talking to strangers comes with risk. Being proactive in your access to these accounts could literally mean the difference between life and death.
If this feels like too much of an invasion of privacy for your family – try this: Write down everyone’s passwords on pieces of paper, and seal them in a family envelope. Make clear that the envelope will only ever be opened in the case of an emergency, investigation, or grave concern – not for regular account checks. This maintains a level of autonomy and privacy (especially for older teens), but also safeguards the family with access to critical information if it’s ever needed.
If you’re unsure where to start, you’re not alone. That’s why we partnered with the Safe Surfin’ Foundation to release a free E-Book, C.R.A.M.: A Parent’s Study Guide to Managing Kids & Technology.
With C.R.A.M., you’ll learn practical tips to keep your kids safe online, how to talk to kids about predators by age group, how to recognize the signs of grooming, what to do if a predator contacts your child, and you’ll get device settings and safety tips for popular online games. Download your free copy today!