5 Ways to Keep Your Child Safe Online
Children and teens today have more access to (and spend more time on) technology than any other generation. As discussed in another blog, there are 11 factors that increase the risk of childhood sexual abuse. One of these factors is unsupervised access to online technology, and it makes sense.
Allowing children to use technology unsupervised can be dangerous for them. Recent research shows that children as young as 10 will encounter online pornography, usually by accident. In addition, many sexual abuse perpetrators first make contact with victims digitally. The internet can be a landmine for children to be exposed to images, and people, that they shouldn’t be.
But there are 5 things you can do as a loving parent or caregiver to keep your child safe online today:
START A DISCUSSION
Sit your child or teen down and talk to them about what they do online, who they talk to, what games they play, apps they use, etc. The more you know what they use it for the better prepared you’ll be for what kind of limits need to be set. A phone contract may be a good idea, depending on the age of your child. The more aware you are of who they’re talking to and what they’re accessing, the better prepared you’ll be to protect them.
LIMIT SCREEN TIME
There are countless studies out there about the importance of limiting the amount of time kids spend behind their screens. In this case it isn’t just about their mental and emotional health, but also about their protection. Lonely kids are at greater risk for sexual abuse. If your child’s only friends are virtual, this could make them a target.
MONITOR WHAT THEY ACCESS ONLINE, INCLUDING SOCIAL MEDIA
An alarming number of children and teens are bullied, exposed to disturbing images, and accidentally access pornography. They may feel a great deal of shame or embarrassment from any of these, which may lead them to stay silent about it. Make sure that you’re there to support, comfort, and educate them. Perpetrators will often contact children and teens through chat features on various apps – make sure you know who your kid is talking to online!
Put some literal limits on what they can access on their computer, tablet, or phone. There are a number of great programs out there that can monitor, limit, and block the things your child sees online. Realize that while these will prevent your child from accidentally coming across anything, these programs are fallible. If your child is tech-savvy they may be able to circumvent the filters. These programs are not a replacement for vigilance.
KEEP TECH OUT IN THE OPEN
With laptops, tablets, and smartphones, it can be a lot harder to keep technology out of the privacy of your child’s bedroom. Establish rules so your children use their computers when you are nearby and limit the amount of time they spend alone online. This will raise the likelihood of you seeing if your child is accessing things they shouldn’t or talking to someone you don’t know.
Educate your child about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Remember to encourage your child to come to you if they ever experience anything online that makes them uncomfortable. If you establish a few rules and remain vigilant, you’ll do a lot to protect the innocence of your child. Just by supervising their time online you can reduce their risk of sexual abuse!
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