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The unavoidable presence of technology and the internet in a child’s life is a fact that can no longer be ignored. Arguably, it is a necessity, as to succeed in later life (if not now), children and young people need to be confident and knowledgeable about all things digital. As such, exposure to the web and various forms of tech are integral to their upbringing.
This familiarity if not mastery of tech is also applicable to parents, who often find themselves constantly attempting to catch up with the latest developments. Meanwhile, some moms and dads remain disinterested, preferring to ignore newfangled gizmos and networks. However, this isn’t enough these days. You have to get over being a technophobe, if for no other reason than ensuring the welfare of your kids. And, well, this is the 21st century – the world we live in is actually quite futuristic.
Indeed, this reality is reflected in how young people see and interact with the world at home and at school – they are growing up with the different kinds of technology that are shaping the way they live from their early years to later life as adults. Consider this Christmas – it is very likely that when it comes to asking Santa for a multitude of gifts, internet-connected devices, be that a smartphone, tablet or smart toy, will be high up on the wishlist (whatever their age).
And, while you may be happy in assisting assist Saint Nicholas in purchasing and wrapping up tech-related presents, it is worth being aware of the importance of securing these devices before they are opened up on Christmas Day.
These are, after all, powerful pieces of hardware that open you and your children to a virtual world of infinite possibilities. In an unsecured state, children can get more than they bargained for, as there are ample risks associated with this kind of tech (as in the real world you can take a wrong turn and find yourself in a less than salubrious digital neighborhood). Worry not, as We Live Security is on hand with an informative guide that offers four insights into this increasingly pivotal aspect of online safety.
Filtering out bad content reduces the risk of children and young people stumbling across content that is, for their age group, unsuitable. It can also be, irrespective of the age of the viewer, generally harmful and/or offensive. This includes violent and pornographic material, but also includes websites that offer dangerous ‘tips’ on things like self-harm and criminal activity.
However, it is important to note that these filters can either overlook certain types of inappropriate content or inadvertently block websites that are not actually offensive. In such instances, use your judgement – discuss why websites that have been missed by filters are improper and vice-versa, encourage your children to come to you to make their case about why you should unblock a certain website.
The ability to download apps is so easy that we sometimes forget they are more than just useful or fun programs. They are real assets, many of which cost money to acquire – as well as coming with further in-app expenses – and therefore, not something that should be downloaded willy-nilly. Yes, many of them are free, but that’s not to say there isn’t some sort of cost attached to them.
Consequently, they should be treated seriously. Access to and use of them should therefore be monitored, much in the same way you would, for example, restrict what kind of movies your children can watch at a certain age. Filters can be applied and access rights can be established so that you, as the parent and bill player, have administrator rights when it comes to downloading apps and games. This also reduces the chances of installing possibly malicious or harmful apps.
Securing devices is also about encouraging good device behaviour, otherwise poor habits that are picked up from an early age can be hard to unravel in later life. Depending on your child’s age and whether or not they are in possession of their own device, establishing when and for how long they can spend on their smartphones, tablets and/or laptops is important.
The latest parental control apps can help you achieve this, such is their sophisticated nature. You can, for example, set up “time budgets”, which can be negotiated through the app itself (very modern in usability). This means that your kid, on having reached their limit, can ask for more time. The rest of that discussion is up to you and whether you think, in this instance, you can make a concession or not.
One of the toughest aspects of being a parent, especially to children who are either beginning to be their own person or are already increasingly independent (the wonderful and challenging teenage years), is appearing to be fair. Any behaviour on your part that comes across as overbearing can be frustrating for your children, even though you know it’s all about being conscientious as opposed to overbearing.
This is why it is important, from the day that your first introduce a device and the internet to your child – which can be as early as three – to discuss the importance of online safety and why parental controls, for example, are a vital part of this. As they get older, and you concede more of that responsibility to them, they are more likely to understand how to continue to protect themselves from offensive content and threats (as in setting up their own strong passwords and updating their software regularly). Quality cyber parenting will get you there.
Author Narinder Purba, We Live Security