10 tips to help keep your child safe on the Internet

We are bringing up a generation of kids who are turning out to be smarter than us when it comes to digital technology. I was holding my 6 month old son the other day whilst using my phone. He got quite curious and starting fighting to control it. In that struggle, he unlocked a feature I have never used in my 3 years owning that phone. Turns out, pressing the home key for long when the phone is on & locked activates the phone’s torch! I was in awe. Yes, it was purely by chance that this happened but that interesting mishap really communicated volumes to me.

This technology is so child simple, as adults we totally don’t get it

So how do we as parents  who are guardians to a generation of kids that is learning how to operate a smartphone before they can say “tata” make sure that we are still playing our lead role in their lives – that of being a protector, provider and nurturer?

It is no longer acceptable to say,

I will deal with it when I get there.

Here are some tips on how to help your child stay safe online

1. Have the conversation early and often
Children and young people spend an average of 12 hours a week online and it becomes part of their routine early on in life. That’s why it’s important to start talking to your child about keeping safe online at an early age. It’s easier to have conversations about online safety little and often, rather than trying to cover everything at once.As your children get older, and technology changes, make sure you keep talking about what they’re doing online and how to stay safe online

2. Explore online together
Ask your child to show you their favourite things to do online, and show an interest in what they do just like you would offline. This will give you a much better idea of what they’re getting up to and it gives you a way to support and encourage them while learning what they know.

3.Know who your child is talking to online
Children don’t think of people they’ve met online through social networking and online games as strangers, they’re just online friends. So it’s important to keep track of who your child’s talking to. Ask them questions like:

– Who do they know that has the most online friends?
– How can they know so many people?
– How do they choose who to become friends with online?

Explain to your child that it’s easy for people to lie about themselves online, like their age, for example, because you have never met them. Agree your child will ‘friend’ a trusted adult on their social networks or online games.
You could also become ‘friends’ with your child so you can see their profile and posts but your child may not want to ‘friend’ you, especially as they get older. Agree that your child can ‘friend’ a trusted adult like an aunt or uncle so they can let you know if they see anything worrying on your child’s profile.

Dangers of children being online

4.Set Screen time rules
It’s useful to agree on some ground rules together. These will depend on your child’s age and what you feel is right for them, but you might want to consider:the amount of time they can spend online
when they can go online the websites they can visit or activities they can take part in sharing images and videos how to treat people online and not post anything they wouldn’t say face-to-face.

If your child plays online games check the age rating before they play make sure you know who they’re playing with talk to them about what information is OK to share with other players negotiate the amount of time they spend playing online games.

5. Supervise you child
Let your child know that they are getting the gadget with conditions. One of the conditions is supervision or monitoring. Placing your computer or laptop in a busy part of the house e.g. the living room or common study area can be helpful.Portable devices may allow you to ensure your children are using them where you can see them and your children can still be supervised. For portable devices like a smartphone, randomly ask for the phone to check the apps installed, browser history log etc.

6. Make sure that content is age-appropriate
You know your child best, so check that the websites, social networks and games they’re using are suitable for them.Check that your browser’s homepage (the page that you see when you open an internet window) is set to a website that you’re happy for your child to see.
Online games, movies and some websites will also have an age rating or minimum age to sign up. Age limits are there to keep children safe. So you shouldn’t feel pressured into letting your child sign up or use websites that you feel they are too young for.

7. Use parental controls to filter, restrict, monitor or report content
You can set up parental controls to stop your child from seeing unsuitable or harmful content online. Local Internet Service Providers (ISPs), such as Access Kenya, Wanachi Online and JTL provide controls to help you filter or restrict content.
Laptops, phones, tablets, game consoles and other devices that connect to the internet have settings to activate parental controls.
Software packages are available – some for free – that can help you filter, restrict or monitor what your child can see online.

8. Check that they know how to use privacy settings and reporting tools
Check the privacy settings on any online accounts your child has, like Facebook or games, and remind them to keep their personal information private.Talk to your child about what to do if they see content or are contacted by someone that worries or upsets them. Make sure they know how to use tools to report abuse.

9. Questions to Discuss with your child

Asking your child the questions below also help them open up and allow you to understand your child as well as note areas that need intervention.

a.Do you really know everybody on your ‘friends’ list?
b.Do you know how to use and set privacy and security settings? Can you show me how?
c.Do you ever get messages from strangers? If so, how do you handle them?
d.Do you know anyone who has made plans to meet someone offline that they’ve only ever spoken to online?
e.Are people in your group of friends ever mean to each other, or to other people, online or on phones? If so, what do they say? Has anyone ever been mean to you? Would you tell me about it if they were?
f.Has anyone at your school, or anyone else you know, taken naked or sexy photos and sent them to other people, or received photos like that

10. Attend local events and forums
Find and attend locally organised events on child online safety for kids. At AfroMum, we are constantly sharing these events on our website or social media platforms.

If you are a parent to a tweenager (Preteen) what has your experience been like?

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