As the first generation of parents raising children with smartphones and unmatched access to technology, it’s not easy to give kids the support they need while also keeping them safe. While there are many reasons to celebrate technology, today’s digital trends can put children in real danger. Relying on these tips and resources will help you protect your kids in the digital age and make parenting in a tech world much less daunting.
1. Protect Your Kids by Talking Early and Often
Today’s children can find more than one million answers to nearly any question they may have in half of a second. This is one of the many reasons that you need to begin having those difficult conversations about issues such as cyberbullying, sexting, pornography, online predators, suicide, and violence with your child — before they’re given unsupervised access to the internet. If you don’t believe your child will face issues like these, look at the data surrounding the online activity of tweens and teens today.
The unfortunate truth is that if you are unwilling to start discussing these issues with your child, someone else will. Being the first to sit down with your child and talk through these dangers allows you to control the conversation and will ultimately help your child feel more comfortable coming to you in the future when they encounter them.
2. Get Curious
One of the best ways to learn what’s really happening online so you can better protect your kids is to download the apps they are using for yourself and having your kids show you how to use them. Not only will you feel better knowing what your kids are doing on their smartphones, but you’ll also be surprised by their willingness to share this information with you and explain the latest memes, lingo, and viral challenges.
There are also several websites, like SmartSocial, that provide great insight into how appropriate specific apps are for different age groups. Common Sense Media, for example, has reviewed more than 4,300 apps to determine how dangerous they are based on content such as violence, sex, explicit language, and alcohol/drugs. The app reviews give detailed information about what parents need to know and even feature both parent and child reviews of each app.
3. Lean on Other Parents
At times, it may feel like you’re completely alone trying to navigate how to protect your kids and raise them in this digital age, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there’s a good chance another family has faced the same difficult situation that you’re struggling with right now. You’d be surprised how much relief can come from simply hearing, “Yes, I’ve been there before, and this is how I handled it.”
If you’re not comfortable asking local friends for advice, there are several private Facebook groups with parents just like you, worrying and wondering if they’re doing the right thing. So whether you’re confused about what a Snapchat “streak” is or you’ve just found out your child has been communicating with strangers on Instagram, lean on other parents for answers.
4. Create Clear Rules and Consequences
You can have open conversations with your kids and do hours of research to learn about the latest apps and devices, but if you don’t establish clear rules and consequences for your family’s activity online, those efforts will be for naught. The instructions need to be as detailed as possible so that both you and your child know what to expect should a rule be violated. Sit down as a family and answer questions such as:
- What apps can your child download?
- Can your child download apps with or without your consent?
- Is your child required to share their passwords with you?
- Is your child required to approve your follow/friend request?
- What kind of content is appropriate for your child to post?
- What kind of content is appropriate for your child to view?
- What kind of information can your child share?
- Who is your child allowed to talk to?
- What privacy settings need to be used on each platform?
- How much screen time is allowed each weekday?
- How much screen time is allowed on the weekends?
- Is your child allowed to keep their phone in their room at night? If not, what time do they need to hand it over to you?
As you review these questions, consider holding yourself accountable too. Think about the reasons why you discourage your child from spending too much time on their device or sharing personally identifiable information. Use them as a reminder to set a good example for your kids. Once you and your child decide what makes the most sense for your family, create a technology contract together to solidify your plan.
5. Take Advantage of Parental Controls
Much like you wouldn’t give your bike without a helmet, you shouldn’t give your child access to the internet without using parental controls to keep them safe online. Even if your child always follows the rules, the digital world introduces complex dangers that kids may not be mature enough to recognize.
While setting up parental controls can be a no-brainer for parents, kids typically aren’t thrilled about the decision. However, it’s important that you candidly discuss the use of parental controls with your child to establish trust and foster productive conversations around the need to protect them online.
Creating a safe environment for your child online can be complicated, with different instructions for everything from apps and games to messaging and email platforms. Fortunately, you can take advantage of parental control resources such as the Barkomatic. This free tool provides step-by-step instructions for setting up parental controls on everything your kid uses — all in one place.
As a company dedicated to helping keep kids safe online and in real life, we’re aware of the worst that exists in the digital world, even when technology contracts and traditional parental control settings are in place. But while digital platforms do carry risk, there are tools, like Bark, that help make the Internet safe for kids to use. Bark uses advanced machine-learning technology to monitor texts, chat, email, and 24+ social media platforms for signs of potential issues like cyberbullying, adult content, suicidal ideation, sexual predators, and more.
Visit SmartSocial.com/bark/ or use code SmartSocial for a free, one-week trial of Bark!