How to protect your children online depending on their age
Every generation of families faces new technology challenges, but everybody’s goal remains the same: maximize the benefits and minimize the risks. This is not easy in a fast-changing digital world where parents often feel their children know more about technology than themselves.
Here are some general guidelines you may find useful in keeping children safe online, depending on their age:
In this age range, a parent’s main questions are when children should have access to a smart gadget and for how long should s/he use it daily. Although it is a personal decision, rules and boundaries must be set.
Pre-schoolers will probably use apps designed for them (and downloaded by parents) and start watching their favorite shows and cartoons.
- Install a parental control app. You will be responsible for managing their screen time and the type of content they access. Balance screen-time with other activities.
- Keep a favorite list of child-friendly apps, websites and shows that they are allowed to watch. Pay special attention to their YouTube surfing, as many fake versions of well-known kids shows offer disturbing content. It might be a good idea to limit web surfing only to the times they are in your presence.
- Screen time shouldn’t always be alone time.?Explore the internet together with your children and co-view and co-play.
6 – 10
As internet use grows, it is time for the first talks about what cybersecurity means and the basic rules to staying safe online. Watching online videos and playing online games are favorite online pastimes at this stage.
Tell them you are using a parental control app and explain why and how it keeps your family safe. It is important that they know and agree on boundaries, as most children will learn by this age how to download new apps and games, use search engines, browse social media and, last but not least, avoid / delete parental control apps from smart gadgets.
- Use your creativity to turn cybersecurity lessons into stories so they can understand viruses, malware, hackers, phishing, inappropriate content, personal information sharing and what can go wrong online. If you explain things to them, instead of just enforcing rules, your children will be more compliant.
- Don’t overreact if they make mistakes online; take them as opportunities to learn how to deal with different scenarios.
- Check out websites, games or apps that your child wants to use.
- Respect the rules you are trying to establish, for example, screen time vs. family time.
- If children already have their own smartphone/tablet, consider using a parental control with tracking/geo location if they go to or return from school by themselves.
Although 13 is the minimum age limit for most social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, most children go social earlier. They feel they’ve become more confident internet users, and many are. But there are some risks associated with social media apps.
Cyberbullying, harassment, chatting and meeting strangers face to face are the most common hazards, and it’s vital to continue discussing online safety with them.
At this age, children use the Internet to research school projects, but they also spend much time exploring the fun side of it, as they download music, movies and TV shows, play online games and get the latest on their favorite celebrities.
- Help them set privacy settings for apps and sites they use
- Establish basic ground rules for online socializing
- Reassure them that they can come to you if they encounter anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable, confused or threatened.
- Teach them to respect copyright, especially when downloading music and video files
- Consider using a parental control that detects cyberbullies and predators from online conversations (Bitdefender Box)
As your child becomes a teenager, the internet will be a part of their daily life. They may have to deal with many challenges specific to the age. Talk to them about being responsible when they’re online, expectations and family values relating to how to behave online.
Stay interested in what they’re doing, even if sometimes they seek to avoid or reject parents’ interference. Bring up challenging issues like sexting, pornography, gambling and cyberbullying, as you’ll both benefit from the subjects being out in the open.
- Adjust parental control to match your teenager’s level of maturity. For example, check first if s/he tends to give in to peer pressure, sends or receivenude, semi-nude or sexy photos, or shares or comments inappropriately on social media.
- Keep updated with apps they use and talk about potential risks
- Persuade them to apply privacy settings and limit personal information s/he shares
- Let your teens know you are there for them if things go wrong and that you will work with them to find a solution.