Kids are signing up for social networks at younger ages year after year. Their friends are already on social media, and the peer pressure to join is strong. CNN did an informal poll across its website, Facebook and Twitter to measure how parents felt about their children’s schedules and social lives. The poll showed parents overwhelmingly agree with the idea that overscheduling kids hinders playtime outside. Their world has become social media, and in many cases texting is a major component to their social lives.
Kids don’t know that pictures and posts last forever, and they may unconsciously damage future job prospects through poor Internet use. Device misuse, especially on a home office computer, can lead to viruses or access to questionable content. Parents are understandably concerned about how to best protect kids from the dangers of the Web. Here are a few tips you can use to child-proof your computer and encourage better ethics in this digital age.
Start a Conversation
The first step is to talk about this complex topic with your kids. Apps like Jott, BurnBook and Secret aren’t going away, even if some of those are banned from the Apple app store. Ask your kids about these apps, ask about their social interactions. Learn their friends by name and face, and try to keep yourself aware of your child’s screen names.
Cyberbullying is a major source of anxiety for children, and it’s a harassment that can seemingly follow a child everywhere. Talk to kids about dealing with bullies, encouraging empathy and being excellent Internet citizens.
Google Chrome offers an admin account to you, so you can utilize other user accounts below the admin. Admin accounts are able to view search and Web history, a useful feature to enable on all of your computers. It’s also not something kids can hide from if they try to utilize incognito. It either forces them to use another browser (here are parental controls for Firefox and Internet Explorer), or avoid questionable content or searches.
You can also enable user accounts in Windows itself, restricting what kids can or cannot view. This is extremely useful on computers connected to a home network, where you might have important files stored. A user account would filter what kids can see, even if they know how to access hidden files, which would protect your personal data. You can even choose which of the installed apps kids have access to, which is useful when you want to control access to games or financial information.
Privacy is the proverbial double-edged sword, because too much is a bad thing. Kids usually aren’t ready to fully accept the responsibilities associated with unrestricted freedoms, no matter what they may think. However, some measure of privacy is important.
Cookies are a good example. Cookies are small tokens a website leaves behind that track information and remember things about your browsing session. Some of these cookies can be quite invasive as far as what they track. Facebook, for example, has been proven to follow you outside of the Facebook website and collect data about your activities as you use your PC. Kids don’t need that kind of tracking from anyone other than you, and certainly not with so much data collection occurring behind the scenes. Enabling “Do Not Track” on your Web browser is the first step in safeguarding against such practices.
If your browser allows for it, you should also disable third party cookies. These basic steps aren’t just the cornerstones for Internet safety for kids, they help safeguard your data and keep your family’s activities private to you. According to WebSafety, there are apps available that help you to monitor the activity of your children both online and offline via your laptop, tablet, smartphone, or desktop.
What Parents Need to Know
Once you’ve filtered what kids can see, what programs they can access, and started a dialogue about computer ethics, you can begin to grant privileges as you see fit. Take advantage of these native features, and look into software that will give you greater perspective on how kids use the computer. PCs are crucial to our daily lives, approaching the act of restriction with the wrong frame of mind can have dire consequences for a child’s future.