How to Keep Your Kids Safe in the Digital Age

Chances are, your child is online for at least a small part of each day. Whether your child is in elementary school or college, whether at school or at home, today’s child is more exposed to technology than ever before. Between computers, cell phones, tablets, gaming devices, and smart watches, all of this exposure to technology can put your child at a higher risk of becoming a victim of an internet crime. While online computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for children, it can also open the door to potential harm.

Some of the key risks facing children online today include:

  • Exposure to inappropriate material. Unsuitable material that is sexual, hateful, or violent in nature is frequently circulated online.
  • Physical molestation. According to a recent study by the Crimes Against Children Research Center, one in 25 youths received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to make offline contact. Providing personal information and arranging a face-to-face meeting can jeopardize the safety of the entire family.
  • Harassment. According to a Pew Research Center study on bullying, one in 3 teens between the ages of 12 and 17 have experienced online harassment. Online relationships can become more harassing, demeaning, and aggressive than personal ones.
  • Financial and legal consequences. Children can find themselves in situations where they have compromised a parent’s financial information or another person’s rights without knowing it.

Here are some tips on how to help keep your children safe in this hi-tech world:

  • Teach your child responsible use of the web, video games, and apps, and limit her time online.
  • Keep the computer and game devices in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom.
  • Keep the family charging station in a common location as well, or in your own bedroom, and make sure your children hand over all devices at a certain time of each night.
  • Use parental control software and safety apps; however, do not rely on this as the only form of monitoring.
  • Communicate with your child about online dangers and remind her of the type of information she should never share with anyone online, even if she thinks she is chatting with a friend. Remind her it is all too easy for people to pretend to be someone else behind the veil of an electronic screen.
  • Always maintain access to your child’s account and randomly check browser history, external hard drives and flash drives, cloud back-up systems, texts, messaging apps, chat rooms in game apps and game devices, and e-mails.
  • Research what computer safeguards are being used in your child’s school, public libraries, and in close friends’ homes.
  • Know your child’s friends and their parents. If you see an unfamiliar name or email address come up in a private message, email, or text to your child, ask your child about it

Finally, talk with your child about non-internet, day-to-day items on a regular basis. If you establish solid communication ties with your child, she is more likely to trust you and feel comfortable enough to go to you when there may be a problem, or it something doesn’t feel quite right with online interactions.