By Tare Youdeowei
AS it turns out, children are not left out of the gadget and smart devices craze. Whether it is an acquisition by observation or just plain smart, it’s a matter for another day. Truth is smart phones are here to stay and they play a key role in the development of children. In school, even public and unity schools, children are using smart devices to aid learning.
The monopoly of the textbook is fast fading. At home, usage doubles for some. Parents have phones, tablets and laptops lying around, children use them. This is healthy till they come across damaging websites or dangerous people on social media platforms. You might wonder how a child can be on social media but face it, if you are mentally equipped for social media, they are more than equipped.
Nevertheless, no matter how smart children are, they are not psychologically equipped for the internet, hence the need to keep them safe from predators and damaging sites in cyberspace. Here, HiTech has collated a few steps, measures and tips to keep children safe.
Parental control: Where a child must have a smart device, ensure the applications (apps) are not only child friendly but will aid development and boost the child’s intelligence. Safety has to be taken and the preliminary is parental control.
Minimum age requirement
Set parental control on all your devices; game boxes, smart phones, computers, cable TV decoders and other tech devices, as well as on websites and search engines. By so doing, you have taken the first step to protecting them. Next step is to regulate their online time.
Time limit: Knowing they have limited time to spend on the internet, the child will gradually learn to manage the time and use it for only work and research, with your guidance, of course.
Age restriction: For social media, every platform has its minimum age requirement. As a parent, ensure they do not sign up on social media platforms till they are above the minimum age. When they eventually become of age, you would do well to vet the platforms before they sign up and monitor their usage upon signing up.
Supervision: Monitoring and supervising your child’s cyberspace activity can also be done via software or apps that keep track of the websites your child has visited, for how long and the words they typed. Such information can help you understand what your child does while making use of the internet.
This can be taken a step further. When your child is on the internet, be it on a personal computer or a family one, ensure the cyber surfing is done with you looking over their shoulder intermittently, not to be nosy but to have a glimpse of what they are doing or viewing, to ensure they do not visit inappropriate sites. This should be backed by the limiting the number of time on the internet.
Content: Teach your child about sharing and posting safely on the internet. Be it pictures of themselves or others, videos or shared posts; make sure you are aware of the kind of pictures and content to be shared before it hits cyberspace.
Safe apps: There are apps that keep your child’s smart phone safe. Children being children, and these days, very tech savvy and smart, they may unwittingly download apps that are not safe for them. To check that, there are apps that ensure child-unfriendly apps do not get into their phone. An example is Secure Teen which can simply be downloaded into their phones to keep it safe.
There are also apps designed to teach good internet habits at an early age. They come with tools that allow children text, email, chat and basically use social media. Parents build an account too, and they approve or block any incoming messages to their child’s account. This helps prevent cyber bullying and cyber stalking.
Be exemplary: Most importantly, remember children learn by example, make conscious effort to ensure you have a decent social media presence. Don’t spend all your time on the internet and when there, do well to avoid web pages that will leave a negative impression on them if they happen to see you visiting such sites. Safely lock your personal smart devices to keep your children away or use parental control on your devices if you and your children use it together.
Communication: Upon taking all these precautions, do well to relate amicably with your children, so much so that they can gist you about what is happening on their social media timeline. This will help you identify when an unsafe person comes into their cyberspace. Before hand, it helps to talk to them about the dangers on the internet and how to keep themselves safe.