If you have children you probably want to control what they do online. Imagine the internet like a big city – but without any noteworthy police force. And this is where you come in.
Many families spend a lot of time at home – and now more than usual given the health concerns related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Time at home often means hours of surfing the Internet. Among other things, children online do homeschooling, do homework, maintain social contacts, look for entertainment and play video games.
But not all online content – or every online activity – is suitable for children and young people. What can you do? There are several ways to keep track of the time your children spend online and their activities there. You can make rules and check that they adhere to them. We also recommend having a parental control app to help you with some of these tasks.
If you are concerned about the dangers your children are facing online, here are some methods that can help keep your children better protected online.
1. Set time limits for device usage.
Sometimes it may seem to you as if your children sit in front of the screen all day long and spend their time on the smartphone, tablet, laptop or in front of the television.
On the other hand, it helps to limit device usage to a certain number of hours per day or week and to monitor compliance with these limits. You can also specify which devices, activities and programs are allowed.
Consult with your children so they can practice media literacy and self-regulation. That way, you may also find out what they love to do online and suggest new TV shows and apps for them. A device-free family home evening at regular intervals is also a good idea.
2. Monitor your children’s online activities.
Perhaps you will allow your children to set up their own e-mail inboxes, set up social media accounts and surf the Internet unsupervised. In this case, a little bit of control won’t hurt.
Let your children know that from now on you are monitoring their devices and why you are doing this. Explain to them that your concern is their safety, not spying on them.
Knowing what your kids are communicating online, what they’re downloading, what they’re looking for, and what they’re looking at can be helpful. This information can be the starting point for a clarifying conversation.
Perhaps your children are having problems with something that they are not sure how to address. Or maybe they came across unsafe content without knowing it.
Talk to your children about safety issues and what to do if they encounter an inappropriate page or inappropriate online behavior. Once your children have learned to navigate the internet more safely, you can take back parental controls.
3. Establish rules for using social media.
Social media can be a difficult topic for teens. On the one hand, they can deepen relationships there. On the other hand, there is a risk that they neglect personal contacts, that their self-esteem drops or that they fall victim to cyberbullying.
Social media can have very different effects. It can be beneficial for your children if they participate in a group project via video conferencing app or cultivate new friends via social media. Talk to your children about using social media intelligently and about safety rules for using your device.
Encourage them to pay attention to how they feel before, during, and after an interaction on social media. Talk about what makes you feel good and what doesn’t. They can help with problems, set limits for social media use and set up data protection functions and content filters.
What else? You can set a good example by spending less time on your smartphone yourself.
4. Pay attention to what information your children share online.
Information often functions as currency on the Internet. They can be requested in return for surfing the web, downloading an app, or registering with a new online service. The risk? Children run the risk of revealing too much personal information if they are not familiar with data protection practices.
You can also download and try the corresponding apps yourself and add your child as a friend. That way, you can keep an eye on what information your children are sharing publicly on the Internet.
5. Limit access to websites.
It happened in no time: you land on an unsuitable website, slip your keyboard or click on the wrong link. Depending on your child’s age and maturity, it may be useful to restrict access to certain websites and the downloading of content that you think is inappropriate. Time and again, give your children examples of how to recognize trustworthy websites.
The bottom line:
Keeping track of your children’s online activities can be a hassle. That said, it is wise to take precautions to keep an eye on who they are talking to, what websites they are visiting, and what content they are consuming and downloading.
It also makes sense to talk to your children regularly about digital citizenship and to find out whether they still agree with the house rules. The aim is to better protect your children and at the same time to train them to use the Internet safely and intelligently.
If you currently spend a lot of time at home with your children, whether of free will or of necessity, this is an ideal opportunity to help them explore the Internet.