With summer in high swing, it is inevitable that kids will be spending more, often unsupervised, time on the internet. As a modern parent, there is great responsibility to protect your children from online dangers. Let’s take a look at how you can monitor your child’s internet usage.
Talk with your child. Children look to their parents for guidance. Being supportive by listening and taking their feelings into account will help keep a positive conversation. As a parent, you may not have every answer but, being honest and creating an open environment about internet safety will help maintain trust in the future.
- DO have communication with your child from the beginning
- DO keep the conversation appropriate for your child’s age
- DO talk about your own use of social media
- DO be open about monitoring your child’s use and that the internet is not private
- DO discuss what is and is not appropriate when using social media
Computer placement. Place the computer that your child accesses the internet from in a common room in the house. This will allow the screen to be visible, making it easier to monitor potentially dangerous activity.
Use social media to your advantage. Sites like Facebook can create a window into a child’s life, helping you stay informed on their social life. By asking your child how to navigate safety and privacy features you will be able to see how much knowledge they have on safely using social media. If it’s apparent that not much thought has been given to privacy settings, use this opportunity to go through them together. It may be beneficial to ask your child for their usernames and passwords, so you have access to them when need be.
Internet monitoring software. Many operating systems have default parental control software, another option is to download free software on your smartphone such as WebSafety. This application (app) is a tool that parents can use to monitor children’s activity on sites such as Facebook or Twitter. WebSafety sends notifications when explicit messages, posts, or photos are sent/downloaded by the child. The parent is also notified when the child is being contacted by potential adult predators. All the parent needs is the e-mail address of the child; the application can detect all social media linked to that address.
Cyberbullying or other threats. Unfortunately, many children will not disclose when they are cyberbullied for fear of their internet privileges being taken away. This is why it is important to have open communication about what happens on the internet and that it is okay to talk about anything that may happen while online. You can personally monitor their activity by taking time together to go over the conversations that have taken place through text messages or on social media sites such as Facebook. WebSafety is another outlet parents can use to detect explicit language through conversation on social media as well.
Don’t overreact and be part of the solution. If a child comes to you after something negative happens, look at the situation as being informed. Parents who are informed are more likely to have their child come to them for help when they stay calm during the conversation, which will lead to more opportunities to talk to and support your child. Staying informed and openly talking about internet dangers is a good way to be part of the solution.
Resources for internet victims:
- National Resources
- Cyberbullying Research Center (cyberbullying.org/report) has a list of resources for reporting cyberbullying under the following categories: Social Media, Messaging Services, Classifieds, Search Engines, Cell Phone Service Providers, Internet Service Providers, and Gaming.
- CyberTipline through National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) is a place to report possible child sexual exploitation.
- Local Resources
- Family & Children’s Center’s Children’s Advocacy Center: Stepping Stones (608) 791-3882
- La Crosse County DA’s Victim Services
- Mayo Clinic Health Systems
- Safe Path
- Gundersen Health System Victim Resources