With the huge rise in technology and social media, more and more kids at younger ages have access to cell phones and the internet. Though this can be a beneficial thing, there are also some serious risks involved. Thankfully there are ways to keep your child safe when browsing the internet and good internet safety habits to adopt, both digitally and in real life.
Lay Some Ground Rules
Before you give your child internet access, it’s always a good idea to set some expectations and put healthy rules in place, like:
-First, don’t give anyone your passwords or personal information.
-Don’t talk to anyone you don’t know or visit a chat room without an adult’s permission.
-Ask an adult before downloading or installing anything.
-If you have any questions or see something that makes you uncomfortable, tell an adult you trust.
Set Screen Limits
Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the most effective. Set a curfew for phones and other screens, so kids are forced to take a break. Not only will this help their self-discipline, but it will give them time to take care of other things, like chores and homework, and interact more with the family.
Filters Are Your Friend
You never know what content your child might accidentally stumble upon when browsing the internet. If you’re worried about what sites they could potentially visit, content filters and monitoring tools are a helpful way to keep an eye on your child’s internet activity. There are plenty of apps and programs out there that promote internet safety, including the Verizon Smart Family app (iOS & Android).
Verizon Smart Family is a service that helps you manage your child’s smartphone use. From a single app, you can limit and monitor their texts and calls and keep an eye on web activity. Plus, you can pause the internet, track their location and more. Verizon Smart Family is only $4.99/month and Verizon Smart Family Premium is just $9.99/month, which includes location services.
Don’t Feed the Trolls!
Unfortunately, cyberbullies can be a serious threat on social media sites. For some, the bully behind mean comments can be easy to ignore. But for others, especially kids and teens, cyberbullies can be damaging to their self-esteem and mental health.
Instead of firing back at online harassers, turn off the screen and connect with your kid face-to-face. Let them know how much you value and love them. Connect them with their friends in real life who will lift their spirits and be a positive influence.
If your child is being bullied at school or knows someone who is, encourage them to download an app like Sit With Us (iOS & Android). This app was developed by a 16-year-old who knew all too well the pain of high school bullying, and how sometimes it helps just to have somewhere safe to sit for lunch.
Kids can use the app to coordinate lunches with friends and volunteer to be ambassadors for their school. Ambassadors can coordinate open lunches where everyone is invited, and no one has to eat alone.
Be a Safe Space
Though there are programs out there that encourage internet safety, the best thing you can do for your child is teach them how to keep themselves safe. Encourage them to come to you if they come across anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable or threatened. In doing so, they’ll know they have a trusted adult on their side.
If you have concerns about getting your child their own phone, the JustKids plan could be a great solution. With JustKids, you can easily manage screen time, filter content and track their location. They’ll gain some independence, and you’ll gain peace of mind.