Given the age of technology that we are in and the reliance we place on the internet for just about everything, parents are concerned that inappropriate Internet content may jeopardise the health or safety of their children. Rightly so.

The Internet can be wonderful for children. They can use it to research school reports, communicate with teachers and other kids, and play interactive games. But online access also comes with risks, like inappropriate content, cyberbullying, and online predators.

Using apps and websites where kids interact, predators may pose as a child or teen looking to make a new friend. And parents should be aware of what their kids see and hear on the Internet, who they meet, and what they share about themselves.

Online tools let you control your kids’ access to adult material and help protect them from Internet predators. Many Internet service providers provide parent-control options. You can also get software that helps block access to sites and restricts personal information from being sent online. Other programs can monitor and track online activity.

More important than blocking objectionable material is teaching your kids safe and responsible online behaviour and keeping an eye on their Internet use.

Here are some basic tips for parental supervision:

·        Spend time online together to teach your kids appropriate online behaviour.

·        Keep the computer in a common area where you can watch and monitor its use, not in individual bedrooms. Monitor any time spent on smartphones or tablets.

·        Bookmark kids’ favourite sites for easy access.

·        Check your credit card and phone bills for unfamiliar account charges.

·        Take your child seriously if he or she reports an uncomfortable online exchange.

As kids get older, it gets a little trickier to monitor their time spent online, particularly given the age of the smartphone. This is when communication is key! Talk about the sites and apps teens use and their online experiences. Discuss the dangers of interacting with strangers online and remind them that people online don’t always tell the truth.

Taking an active role in your kids’ Internet activities helps ensure that they benefit from them without being exposed to the potential dangers. The unfortunate reality is that we cannot control everything that our children are exposed to, but we can teach them about what is appropriate and what isn’t. 

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Author – Jessica Gooding

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