Tips for parents on making online safer for kids — time limits, parental controls

Children love the internet. For many, it has become their primary source of entertainment.

Whether they are using social media to stay in touch with friends, watching videos on YouTube, conducting research for their history project or playing games online, the internet has everything they need and quite a few things they don’t.

The internet has revolutionized our world, and no one has embraced technology like our children. With just a few keystrokes, they can access movies, music, games and so much more. But it has also made them more vulnerable to online predators as well as information and images that are not appropriate for children.

While the internet has the potential to put your kids at risk, it doesn’t mean they can’t safely and securely enjoy the good things the internet has to offer. By taking a few precautionary measures and following a few common sense rules, you and your children can enjoy a safe online experience.

The first step is to discuss responsible online behavior with your children. Be sure they understand the dangers that exist and follow a few safety rules.

Set boundaries to encourage responsible online behavior. Ensure they understand that you have rules about sites they can and cannot visit, and make sure they understand the dangers that exist online.

Ensure your children understand the dangers of disclosing personally identifiable information on social media posts or online chats, such as their home address, age, photos or the name of their school.

Take an interest in your child’s favorite apps and sites and occasionally visit these sites together so you are aware and informed about your child’s online behavior.

Consider a family tech agreement that sets parameters for screen time — when and where technology is allowed — and ensures your children understand your expectations online.

Parental controls

Discussing responsible online behavior with your children is only part of ensuring they are safe. Following that up with parental controls online will support your efforts to keep your children’s online experience safe, fun and productive.

There are a number of parental control options. Determining which one is right for you depends on the specific needs of your family.

For some, simple browser settings the block inappropriate content may be all you need. For others, you may want controls that limit screen time or even allow you to monitor text messages and sites your children visit.

There are many parental control options. Here are a few examples available and how they can help you keep your children safe online.

  • Block websites.
    To limit what your kids can search for and control what sites they can visit, Google SafeSearch can be enabled to limit search results to those deemed appropriate for children.

  • Block websites and filter content.
    If you want to prevent access to specific websites and limit your kid’s exposure to inappropriate content such as mature games or pornography, you can use the parental controls that are built into your device’s operating system. Every major operating system — Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s Mac OS and even Amazon’s Fire — offers settings to keep kids from accessing stuff you don’t want them to see. This is a great option for younger children who primarily use a home device.

  • Monitor online activities.
    Third-party parental control services such as Qustodio or NetNanny will give you more control over all of your kid’s devices — the ones they use at home as well as their smartphones. These controls can be expensive, but the cost includes constant device monitoring, offering you visibility into how kids are using their devices.

  • Monitor my kid’s phone.
    To keep tabs on your kid’s phone, you may want to consider a monitoring app such as Bark, KidBridge or WebWatcher. These apps will allow you to monitor text messages, social networks, emails and other mobile functions.

These are just a few examples of tools available to help control your children’s online activities and encourage responsible behavior.

More online security tips

  • Make sure the computer or device your child is using has security protections on it. Anti-virus software and firewalls are key in helping prevent unauthorized access or infections from viruses.
  • Make sure your children restrict access to what they share online. Make sure any online interactions or posts are only visible to people they know.
  • Make sure your children understand that downloading and installing third-party applications on their social media sites may change their security settings and allow access to their social media profile.
  • Avoid using free internet hot spots for sensitive internet transactions, like banking. There isn’t enough protection in place, and passwords can easily be picked up by an attacker.