The art of parenting comes with many challenges and modern technology is only adding to the list of risks for children. It is common for children to play with their parent’s smartphone or tablet for the purposes of education, entertainment, or just to keep them busy for a little while. In theory, a smartphone or tablet is a great device for any of these purposes, however, adequate supervision and planning is required to ensure that these networked devices don’t generate risk when used without supervision.
There are a variety of harmful issues that an unrestricted device might present to a child, as the internet is full of adult content, nefarious actors, unrealistic expectations, and bullies. All of these are significant concerns and should inspire parents to take the necessary precautions required to protect their children.
Additionally, mobile devices can become addictive if used without restrictions. Most children are overly exposed to technology, spending well over the suggested amount of time using a smart device.
The first line of defense here is clear communication, as a relationship built on trust can ensure that parents have a strong idea of where their children are spending their time online. When equipped with this knowledge, parents can do a better job of reducing risks. However, there are some additional tactics to consider that will make the work of protecting your children online much easier.
The router that you choose can assist in the process of protecting your children through the implementation of parental controls. Your router will make it possible to enact website blocks and controls on adult content. There are even routers that make it possible to control screen time by setting schedules for your children. Being that some routers are better than others in this regard, this list might help you choose the best hardware for you.
A report by Common Sense Media estimates that 53% of US children have a smartphone by the age of eleven. A big factor here is emergencies, as many parents want their children to have the ability to communicate should something serious arise.
There are tools that exist for both the iOS and Android operating systems that make it possible to manage certain content based on age.
Screen time Locking: Many devices have the ability to implement lock screen patterns, passcodes, and even biometric recognition. These tools ensure that devices are only used when parents or supervisors are present.
App Monitoring & Controls: It is important that parents only download apps that are appropriate for their children based on age. Additionally, linked credit cards should be removed as many apps operate on models that are based on in-app purchases. These purchases can lead to a substantial bill if not controlled.
Monitoring Tools: Apple and Google both offer their own version of monitoring services. These apps monitor screen time and allow for the implementation of parental controls.
The Presence of Cyberbullies
Cyberbullying is a serious concern for modern parents, as the impact that a cyberbully can have on a child can be severely damaging to mental health. Cyberbullies harass, abuse, and intimidate through a variety of platforms including social media, messaging applications, and online forums.
The first step to handling cyberbullies is to discuss the topic with your children. Your children should understand the real-world consequences associated with being a cyberbully, as well as tactics to mitigate the mental health damage caused by bullies.
If cyberbullying is detected, it is imperative that evidence is recorded through screenshots of social media posts or messages. This evidence will need to be provided to the school or in some cases the legal system.
Before allowing your child to set up an account on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, make sure that you take a proactive approach by exploring the application and gaining an understanding of privacy controls.
Each social media platform presents its own potential issues and tactics to ensure that your children are safe.
Facebook: Probably the most widely used and commonly known social media platform, Facebook is a global network that connects friends and family. There are a lot of avenues for nefarious behavior on Facebook including grooming, fake news, data harvesting and cyberbullying.
If you have a younger child who would like to use the platform, it can be helpful to establish an agreement that access to their account is shared until they reach a specified level of maturity. This requires balance as many pre-teens desire and deserve privacy.
Facebook provides some specific security settings that should be considered by parents. The privacy tab presents setting options that allow for the specification of whether an account can only be viewed by friends or is open to the public for viewing. There is a section titled “How people can find and contact you,” which allows users to establish list and phone number checks before sending a friend invite. This can also stop your profile from populating within search results. Finally, location tracking and facial recognition can be turned off and certain individuals can be blocked from viewing your child’s profile.
Twitter: Twitter has become a go-to platform for posting messages, images, and videos that are public and is a great platform for individuals to connect with businesses, politicians, and associations. Unfortunately, Twitter can also be a very toxic digital environment as there tends to be a large about of trolling and abuse on the platform.
There are a few specific settings that should be explored by parents on twitter. “Location” settings should always remain disabled in order to block the publicity of location-oriented information. There are also ways to ensure that non-followers are prohibited from sending direct messages and opening dangerous lines of communication. Similarly, by selecting the “protect your tweets” option, you can ensure that your tweets can only be viewed and replied to by your followers. Finally, Twitter also provides an option to censor content that is considered sensitive.
Instagram: Instagram is a platform dedicated to the sharing of visual content such as photos and videos. The content that is shared can be commented on, and direct messages can be exchanged between users. This platform has led to the proliferation of social media personalities known as “influencers” who use their platform to promote products, brands, or lifestyles.
The first step to establishing a base level of security on Instagram is to make your child’s account is private. This stops unaccepted individuals from viewing and interacting with your child’s content. Additionally, it is possible to block specific users if someone presents a threat on the platform.
Snapchat: Generation Z has inspired the rising popularity of Snapchat, a platform meant for chatting and the sharing of temporary images. Images that are shared on the platform disappear after a few seconds which unintentionally led to the sharing of personal and sometimes explicit content among users. Children should understand the risks that exist here. Snapchat does offer some basic privacy setting options including the sharing of location and specifications associated with who can view user-generated content.
Mobile devices and digital applications are extremely powerful and can be used for both good and bad causes. Their rise in popularity makes them difficult to avoid, which is why parents must be prepared to manage them for their children who will inevitably express interest in their use. Inform yourself on hardware and software before providing access to your children and remain in the loop on current popular trends and tactics used by malicious actors.