Video Games, Social Media & Websites: 8 Ways to Help Keep Kids Safe While Online by 30Seconds Mom
With smartphones, tablets and computers, being online has never been easier for kids – even those as young as 2 or 3. While being online offers a wealth of educational opportunities and entertainment for our children, it isn’t without its dangers. Parents should be aware of the potential pitfalls for kids online and what they can do to help avoid them.
Gaming and interactive websites are popular online destinations for kids. However, kids – especially those unfamiliar with online use – can expose your computer or mobile device to viruses or hackers by opening up ads or other links on these sites. Interactive online games can also put kids at risk from social predators if they share personal information while playing.
Social media is another concern. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:
- 90 percent of teens ages 13 to 17 have used social media
- 75 percent report having at least one active social media profile
- 51 percent report visiting a social media site at least daily
- two-thirds of teens have their own mobile devices with internet capabilities
How do you know if your child is ready for social media? Facebook‘s age requirement is 13, but some kids fake their age and establish a profile even if they’re younger than that. There are social media sites geared toward kids under 13 that offer safety features like text filters and privacy controls. Ultimately, though, the decision of when to allow your child to text, tweet, have an email account or create a social media profile is up to you and should be made not just by your child’s age but by his or her maturity level.
The key to safe online use for kids is communication. First, discuss online rules and limitations with your partner to establish a united front before you talk to your children. Then make these rules clear to your children, letting them know they can always talk to you about online situations they don’t understand or that make them uncomfortable.
Organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the Center on Media and Child Health and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recommend several other ways parents can help keep their children safe on cellphones and online:
- Supervise kids younger than 10 when they’re online to show them the basics and to learn your child’s interests. Teach them how to navigate websites and apps on mobile devices and explain to them the difference between main content and ads. Provide easy access to kid-friendly sites and games by creating a folder or section on your computer or mobile device.
- Use online parental controls, which offer filters that block pop-ups and certain sites and even allow monitoring of your child’s online activities. Introduce kids to organizations like NetSmartz.org that offer cyber safety education for kids.
- Talk to your kids about safe online practices like not friending strangers or people they don’t know well, and not posting intimate or embarrassing pictures of themselves or anyone else. They should never give out personal information like usernames and passwords, their full name, address, phone number or school name. If sites require a name to play, help kids come up with a nickname they can use online.
- Keep online devices in common areas like the living room or kitchen and limit your children’s computer, cellphone and tablet use to these open areas of the house. Have an online curfew, too, such as no texting or social media after 10 p.m. for teens or no online games after dinner for preschoolers.
- Set time limits for online use. Most organizations recommend no more than one to two hours a day. Establish a system of rewarding online time in 10- or 15-minute increments, which teaches children that being online is a privilege, not a right.
- Learn and use the games, social media and lingo your kids use and lead by example. Create your own social media accounts on the sites your child frequents, and make it a rule to friend each other. Consider friending their friends to have access to the sites and people your kids do.
- Talk to your kids on a daily basis about their online use. Ask “Who texted you today?” “What did you play online?” “Did you friend anyone new on Facebook?” Look for signs of cyber bullying or inappropriate use, such as not wanting to go to school, being upset after online use or avoiding your questions.
- Be upfront with your kids about where their privacy with cell and online use begins and ends. Get their usernames and passwords for email and social media accounts and check their accounts periodically for incoming and outgoing communications.
The content on 30Seconds.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice. The information on this site should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, and is not a substitute for professional care. Always consult your personal healthcare provider. The opinions or views expressed on 30Seconds.com do not necessarily represent those of 30Seconds or any of its employees, corporate partners or affiliates.
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