As we all push for greater access to the World Wide Web, we must keep in mind the effects that greater exposure will have on ourselves and especially our children. Internet access comes with its own set of worries, including privacy concerns, child exploitation, and even mental well-being.
Many parents feel that they are not equipped to tangle in the fast-paced world of the Internet, but there are some low-tech ways to help keep children safe online:
- Limit exposure – Set time guidelines for internet usage as if it were television watching. Just as you expect the TV to be off by a certain time, then computer and mobile device access should be limited.
- A drop in the bucket – Keep a container near the doorway and just as house and car keys are put down on entering the home, so should children relinquish their devices until such a time as it is acceptable such as for 1 hour after dinner or following homework checks.
- No screens in bed – Children who bring mobile devices and computers to bed are exhibiting behavior that could stunt their brain development, emotional growth, and ability to connect (see Psychology Today report on excess screen time).
- Get in the game – If you need to boost your digital literacy, find a free online course on internet safety such as those found at GCFLearnFree.org (http://www.gcflearnfree.org/onlinesafety/internetsafety)
- Invest in a watchdog – Contact your mobile services provider about parental controls and add them to your plan. For a few dollars more a month, you can create restrictions on mobile use, including internet, apps, questionable sites, and telephone contacts. Try Sprint Mobile Controls or AT&T Smart Controls for example. Ask your provider for more details and help setting up.