Having a hard time doing what needs to be done to keep your kids safe online? Do you mentally shrink back when you realize you don’t do any of the tips experts so often recommend? Let the guilt go, parent because you are not alone.
Family life moves at warp speed. We want to keep up, we do everything we can to keep up, but sometimes — depending on the season of life — our best intentions get left on the roadside gulping dust.
So if you feel like you are falling behind, we put together this quick cheat sheet that will allow you to cover your safety bases and regain some ground on the technology front.
6 Easy Things You Can Do to Keep Your Kids Safe Online
Ask about apps
Restrictions on apps exist for a reason. Glance through your child’s home screen and ask about any app you don’t recognize. If you are unsure about an app’s functionality, audience, or risks, dig deeper. This step covers a lot of ground since apps are the #1 way tweens and teens gain access to mature content.
YouTube Safety Mode
Your kids probably spend a ton of time watching videos online andwho knows what their eyes have seen or what links they’ve clicked. What you may not realize is that YouTube has a safety feature that will block most inappropriate or sexual content from search, related videos, playlists, shows, and films. For kids under four, there’s YouTube Kids.
While it’s not going to be as powerful as filtering software, Google has a SafeSearch feature that will filter explicit content (links, videos, and images) on any device. Google also has a reporting system if anything gets through their feature.
Verify Privacy Settings
This step is a five-minute conversation with your child that will remove some risks. If your child is on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter, make sure their privacy settings are marked “private.” This will keep anyone outside of their friend group from connecting with them. As part of the privacy settings chat, review strong password practices.
Relationship over rules
The #1 way to safeguard your kids against online risk, is making sure you have a strong relationship. Spend tech-free time together, listen and observe how your child uses and enjoys his or her devices. A healthy parent-child relationship is foundational to raising a wise digital citizen who can make good choices and handle issues such as cyberbullying, sexting, conflict, or online scams. Connect with your child daily. Talk about what’s new with school, their friends, and anything else important to them. Along the way, you’ll find out plenty about their online life and have the necessary permission (and trust) to work your concerns about online safety into any conversation.
Friend and follow but don’t stalk
Many parents cringe at the thought of opening a Twitter or Snapchat account, but if that is where your child spends most of his or her time, it’s time to open an account. It’s easy by the way. The wise rule here is that once you follow your child, give them space and privacy. Don’t chime in on the conversation or even compliment them. While they may appreciate your “likes” on Instagram, they aren’t too happy with “mom comments” as my daughter calls them. If you have a concern about a photo or comment your child has uploaded, handle it through a Direct Message or face to face but never in the public feed.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures).