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6 Ways To Get Your Child’s Tech Journey Off To A Safe Start

kid playing games on pc As a parent, there’s a lot you do to keep your children safe and healthy. You make sure they wear a helmet before hopping on their bike and lather them with sunscreen before a day outside. You’ve even taught them to enjoy eating their vegetables. But what can you do to protect them from internet bullies, explicit content, and online predators?

In today’s digital age, your children will be surrounded by potentially harmful technology. However, there are steps parents can take to protect their children from the dangerous side of the internet. Outlined below are six ways parents can ensure their children use technology safely.

1. Invest in Kid-Friendly Tech

Has your child come home begging for a smartphone? While you may consider their request, it’s best to withhold that technology until they’re old enough to handle the responsibility. Children and tweens may not understand the risks associated with cell phone use. This could potentially put them at greater risk of encountering an online predator or cyberbully.

However, this doesn’t mean your kids have to be completely tech-free. Parents can safely introduce children to technology by investing in kid-friendly tech. Devices designed for children, like a smart watch for kids, make it easy for kids to stay connected to their parents. The best part is these devices don’t have internet access. This lets children remain connected with their family and friends without the risks associated with internet use.

2. Keep Technology In A Common Space

kid-on-computer Even if you don’t give your child a phone, they’ll likely still get tech exposure early on. Maybe your child likes to watch their favorite kid’s show on the family iPad. Or maybe they have homework assignments that require internet research. While these situations are ostensibly harmless, they can become dangerous when kids are left unmonitored.

To ensure your child is surfing the web safely, keep household tech in a public place. This strategy may look different from family to family. For some, this may simply mean no screens in the bedroom. For others, the rule might be that devices aren’t allowed to leave the dining room. Establish guidelines that work for your family and explain to your children why they’ve been put in place.

3. Set Up Parental Controls

Innocent internet searches can occasionally lead to explicit results. However, keeping kids off the web entirely isn’t an option for many families. Luckily, setting up parental controls can help parents filter what content their children are and aren’t exposed to.

To protect your kids from explicitly violent or sexual material, turn on Google’s SafeSearch feature. This tool may occasionally let some inappropriate content slip through the cracks. However, it will keep your children safe the majority of the time. For more advanced parental control options, consider investing in a paid security tool.

4. Make Sure Their Location Is Private

Once your child has reached their teen years, you may decide that they’re ready for an iPhone. However, even if they’re mature enough to navigate the internet, they may still accidentally put themselves at risk. Apps like Snapchat and fitness trackers automatically share user locations with others. This can make it easy for predators to locate them.

To discover which apps have access to your child’s location, navigate to the Settings section of their iPhone. Then navigate to Privacy. From Privacy, you’ll see a Location Services option. Make sure this section is on so you can see which apps track your child’s location. From there, have a conversation with your child about the apps for which you’re disabling location tracking and why.

5. Watch Out For Signs Of Cyberbullying

kid-on-phoneWhile digital devices like cell phones provide teens with a convenient way to connect with friends, they also provide another avenue for bullies. Cyberbullying takes place using digital devices and most often occurs via text, social media, or apps. Approximately 37% of children aged 12 to 17 years have experienced cyberbullying, making it a significant concern for parents.

You may not be able to prevent your child from being bullied. However, you can watch for signs of bullying and intervene when necessary. Indications that your child is experiencing cyberbullying include loss of interest in activities, withdrawal from friends, and nervousness around technology.

If you discover that your child is the victim of bullying, report it to their school. Many states require schools to address cyberbullying as part of their anti-bullying policies.

6. Limit Screen Time

While the occasional lazy movie day won’t negatively impact your child’s development, excessive daily screen time may. One study found that children who devoted more than two hours per day to screen-time activities exhibited lower language and thinking skills. While scientists are still trying to understand what this means, they hypothesize that technology narrows kids’ focus of interest. This limits their exposure to learning and exploration.

So how can parents help reduce their kids’ screen time? Designating technology-free zones could help. Examples of this could be no technology at the dinner table or no screens in bedrooms or bathrooms.

Creating A Safe Environment For Kids

Technology offers myriads of benefits, but it’s important that parents put guardrails on its use to keep their kids safe. Using the tips above can help ensure that your child learns how to manage technology responsibly.