One day you wake up and realise your kids know more than you do! Well, in the world of mobile phones, tablets, apps and all things online anyway. The goal posts are constantly moving and new apps, new features and new tricks are popping up faster than any of us can keep up with. So how can we as ‘the adults’ make sure our kids are safe online? Is this even possible anymore?
At Techrevive in Geelong, we are very familiar with the many, many online messaging apps that allow users to talk to each other – everything from TikTok, Snapchat, WhatsApp and WeChat through to the ‘old school’ Instagram and Facebook options. There are even school based ‘homework/study’ apps that allow classmates to communicate 24/7 now! These apps are brilliant to communicate with your friends but they can also expose users to a wider audience they may or may not be prepared for or want to engage with.
Then we need to consider the abundance of unfiltered, inappropriate content everyone can get their hands on on-line! Seemingly innocent search requests can lead to some very dark, disturbing, non-child friendly results.
So what can we do to protect our kids?
- Talk to your kids about online safety and rules.
Having an open dialogue with your children in regards to their devices is critical. Setting rules (and sticking to them) in regards to how long devices can be used for, at what time of day and where the devices must be used is a great way to monitor what your children are doing online. For example, you might agree that permission needs to be asked before using a device, the device can be used for a maximum of 1 hour, only when the sun is up and only in the living area of the home.
Discuss what sites, apps and content is acceptable for your child. 5 year olds would have different rules to 12 year olds – so be sure to update your discussion regularly.
2. Check your settings – on each device your children use.
Virtually every mobile device now comes with has inbuilt controls to filter and protect users online. Look into the filter options on all devices your children have access to. (If you cannot find the setting options you need to adjust, check Google for instructions.)
Again – adjust the settings to suit the age of your child. In most cases you can set up an adult as the “Main User” for each device and a “Child User” option can be set up with the desired filters and controls.
3. Protect devices with a PIN – all the devices in your home should be PIN protected.
Set up your child’s device with an agreed PIN (that you know and cannot be changed without your knowledge) and set a timer for automatic screen lock time. This is helpful, particularly when your child has their device in public places like schools, cafes, etc. ‘Friends’ can access unattended, unlocked phones and create mischief or send messages your child is not aware of. A secret PIN may help avoid this.
4. Look into Parental Control Apps.
There is no easy one-stop-shop solution here. There are lots of options out there and you will need to do your research. Whether it’s looking at reviews and recommendations online or talking to your circle of parenting friends for advice. Take the time to look. There are paid and free options available and different apps more suited to different ages.
5. Check in, be involved.
While it’s great to have the necessary conversations and put the filters and protection apps in place we need to ensure our kids know we are always here to support and help them online and IRL (in real life). It’s not a case of set and forget – check in with what your kids are watching, playing and doing online. Ask questions! You might even set up an agreement where at any stage you can ask ‘Can you show me what you are looking at?’ (or launch surprise ‘attacks’) just to ensure these clever little Gen Z’s and Post-Millennials are abiding by the rules you have in place.
Note: If your child is not willing to show you or discuss with you what they are doing online – this is a red flag and should be investigated further.
There is lots to consider – but hopefully this information is helpful. Should you need some further advice or help with setting filters, PINs and permissions – contact the team at Techrevive in Geelong on (03) 5273 0261, enquire online or drop into the shop at 78A Garden Street, East Geelong.