During the course of 2021, the National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children received 2.3 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation. The 35% increase from the previous year can be largely attributed to the fact that children have been spending more time in front of electronic devices than ever before. In addition to using laptops and smartphones for gaming and social media, these technologies were also utilized to keep children up-to-date with their schoolwork. While having access to the internet is undoubtedly beneficial in many ways, the more time a child spends on it the greater their chance to catch the attention of an online predator. Here are a few things you as a parent can do to help keep your children safe online.
Education is Key
One of the most effective ways to protect your children online is to teach them how to use it safely. The most important rule any child should be taught is to never under any circumstances, respond to the advances of strangers. They must never share any personal information including their real name, where they live, their phone number, and what school they attend. Most of these guidelines are also applicable to adults and especially those who are looking for companionship on the internet. Also, make it very clear to your children that they are not at fault if they are approached by an online predator and encourage them to always report suspicious situations they find themselves in, to you.
Build an Open and Trusting Relationship
Educating your children on the potential dangers of the internet will only be effective if you have an open and trusting relationship with them. When a child feels secure and appreciated they will naturally be more willing to open up during uncomfortable conversations. When talking to your children about internet safety it is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with both the websites and applications that your children have expressed interest in and those that are popular among the youth in general. Your homework should include finding out what sites and apps have age restrictions, which games have in-game chat facilities, and what privacy settings are available to protect your child.
Protect Your Family’s Data
You can help ensure your children’s safety online even more by protecting your family data. You can do this in a number of relatively simple yet effective ways such as activating two-factor authentication on all your devices. Also, personalize the privacy settings on all apps and websites as simply accepting the default settings could lead to a number of security breaches. Install reputable antivirus software on all devices and check your family’s browsers for cookies on a regular basis to ensure that no one’s personal info is being collected. Finally, keep location services turned off unless you are tracking the location of your children or if an app cannot function without it.
Children are spending more time online than ever before. As parents, we need to do everything in our power to keep them safe while doing so.