It’s a small world after all. In today’s instantly connected society, where people spend hours blogging, updating their social status and checking out what other people have been up to on their latest holiday, it can all get quite overwhelming, particularly as a parent. However as an important childcare point, it is essential that you are able to get to grips with the World Wide Web – more commonly known as the internet – so that you can make sure your kids are staying safe online.
One major point of contention is the concept of online privacy and the unintentional sharing of personal information that can lead to some serious knock-on effects. Kids nowadays are more wired and in touch than ever, however they are still having issues with oversharing and with revealing personal details on the internet that should never be shared on such a medium. In order to encourage safe searching, here are a few pointers that should get you started on showing your child the importance of their online privacy.
Making Valid Comparisons
Many children do not realise the full implications of sharing intimate details online. They can sometimes liken it to the idea of ‘It is mine to share, so why shouldn’t I share it? It’s not that important’ or ‘it’s not hurting anyone’. However, people can easily find out important information from relatively unimportant details if they had the means and the determination to do a little sleuthing.
Consider Facebook and its infinite possibilities. Perhaps you have listed your hometown in the ‘About You’ section, and you have recently gotten back in touch with some old school or work acquaintances via a friend request on Facebook. One status of yours might mention the performance of your child in their school play where you say the name of the school. Another status (on a different day/week/month) might mention that you are having a late lunch and could be late in picking Simon up from school.
Potential predators will store all this information in the hopes that it will compile and mean something. In those few innocuous Facebook updates and information about your home life, you have given away your hometown, the name of your child, the name of their school and the fact that your child is going to be unaccompanied when they get out of school. Not everyone on Facebook that you connect with is going to have your best interests in mind and in those little details, you may have now put your child at risk. It can sound silly, but those are the dangers that come with thoughtlessly giving away information – of any kind – on the internet. Your kids also need to know the importance of this.
Giving Trust and Respecting Privacy
You can’t control every little thing your kids see, do and interact with. The harder you try the more they are likely to push back and rebel against your attempted authority. A working relationship of trust and respected privacy is essential. If you give your children the idea that they should not have to hide anything from you, using open and honest discussion, you will be able to better monitor or at least have trust in their activity on the computer and on the internet. If you’re using the services of a nanny agency such as Harmony at Home, the designated childcare provider would then naturally have to be in on your concerns and they should then be briefed to also do their bit to monitor the children’s online activity.
Using invasive privacy techniques or expressing distrust in your child will only make them feel as if what they are doing on the computer is wrong. They will make more of an attempt to hide their online tracks and in doing so, could stumble across damaging information. By being open with your children and encouraging a trusting environment, it actually makes it easier for you to identify and encourage ‘good web behaviour’, and to discourage ‘bad web behaviour’.
Some websites (this should not come as a surprise to you) are not suitable for children, full stop. As the internet is a free space it is used by people of all ages, so some of the content out there and available for browsing is not always safe for children to be looking at. However it is mainly down to you; as the parent to police and prevent this information from getting into the hands of your child. The internet is a huge, immeasurable giant spanning across the world and as such it cannot be wholly policed by a single governing body. Responsibility of safe browsing rests mainly on the user, or the user’s legal guardians.
Luckily there are programs available that will help you to prevent your children gaining access to websites that are not age appropriate for them. There are apps for their mobile devices and browser extensions that can be downloaded and installed that will completely block access off from certain websites. Many of these apps also come password protected; meaning that your children cannot shut them off or bypass them without knowing the password.
It is no longer acceptable for parents in this day and age to have little to no understanding of how the internet or the world wide web works. At the very least, a basic understanding of the internet and its many pathways and nuances is fundamental to ensuring the long-term safety and privacy of your children. It is no longer a medium of useful information and if your children get access to the wrong kinds of websites, it can be seriously damaging to their health and their mental image.
By gaining knowledge of how the internet works in your own way, you are taking active steps towards understanding its raison d’etre and its allure in kids and teenagers of all ages. Every generation has gotten away with it so far; downplaying the dangers a new technology or feature to unknowing parents so that they overlook its implications, but in today’s connected world, it is important that you know exactly what your child is doing, or you at least have an understanding of the types of websites they are likely to visit.
Privacy and security online are no laughing matter. People can and have found out the home addresses of those living supposedly ‘anonymously’ online; with disastrous consequences. We don’t mean to frighten parents or to prevent them from letting their kids go online indefinitely, it is just important that both you and your children are aware of establishing proper privacy settings on your online accounts to avoid real-life privacy concerns slipping through. Moreover, you can safeguard all family devices such as mobiles, computers, and laptops by opting for security software like VPN. A virtual private network can encrypt your online data to remove the chances of data leak or theft which can compromise your’s or your family’s safety. You can look for the best secure vpn with affordable monthly or yearly plans that your whole family can use.
All in all, an active approach into learning what the internet is and what sites your children are likely to visit, coupled with a mutual agreement of trust and software that is designed to help protect the safety and privacy of your children is essential. Beware, your kids may surpass these safety regulations from time to time; it is a natural progression of childlike curiosity and the ability of youths to dig too deep for their own good. However if you have properly educated your children on the importance of online anonymity and keeping their personal details to themselves, you should have no worries when it comes to the real-life effects of these small ‘breaches’. Kids are kids and they will be curious, but you have to instil in them the importance of their own privacy and their own security.