Today our children inhabit an online world. It seems large and complicated and hidden. Trying to monitor this world sometimes seems overwhelming. We can feel ill-equipped, outnumbered and alone in the quest to ensure our kids are safe in cyber land.
The good news is you are not alone.
In fact, there are many practical tools at your disposal.
Nearly all devices these days provide parental controls. Gaming devices, tablets, smartphones, web browsers and even your wi-fi service is likely to have controls allowing you to monitor and limit your child’s online activity. These controls can block inappropriate content, allow you to monitor online use and even set time limits. Some wi-fi services can set a blackout period overnight. Although none of these controls are fail safe, coupled with simple parenting strategies, they can be highly effective tools. See the link at the end of this article on how to make use of parental controls.
As well as feeling alone in the struggle, we can sometimes feel an emotional discord between trying to monitor our children and the desire to allow them privacy and freedom. And, to be honest, sometimes our kids prey on this. They can be very good at convincing us that everyone else is allowed to x,y and z online and that no-one else’s parents ever put restrictions on them. False. Feel empowered because this is simply not true. A 2016 survey reports that 96% of parents actually take action to limit and monitor their children’s online use. Most parents use multiple strategies.
This doesn’t mean that you take away the online world, bubble-wrapping your child. It means that you parent the online world, just like you parent the real-world. You teach your kids how to navigate social media just like you teach them to navigate any other social situation.
Even though kids these are days are supposedly ‘digital natives’, that doesn’t mean that they will somehow intuitively know how to behave and be safe in the online world. They need your support. And, yes, they will mess up from time-to-time. They’re supposed to. They’re children, they’re learning. When they do, don’t freak out. Use it as a learning opportunity. Decide whether or not you need to reassess the rules and limits you have in place, or perhaps you just need to enforce the ones you have.
Talking with other parents, schools and reading expert advice will give you an armory of good strategies for keeping your children safe.
And, honestly, the expert advice is really quite simple:
- Use parental controls
- Talk to your kids openly about the online world. Ask questions.
- Set and enforce clear and negotiated rules suited to your household.
- Teach your children to be respectful and responsible online just as you would expect them to be in the ‘real world’.
Take heart. You got this.
Online basics for parents:
Source: Office of the Children’s e-safety Commissioner
By Ashti Mullen
Year 7 Learning Culture Leader