Tech-savvy kids can surf the net better than their parents. In an increasingly tech-centered world, children are being introduced to the internet earlier and earlier. According to HighSpeedInternet.com, kids as young as 3 are hopping online. Other parents wait until their children reach elementary school and the research projects start before introducing their kids to the wonders of the internet. With kids getting their own tablets and smartphones younger and younger, when is the best age to let your kids go online?
When you decide to allow your kids on the internet is entirely up to you. Sure, the internet has a lot of pluses, but it also comes with inherent dangers. Screen time can be a Pandora’s box. Once it’s opened, kids will want to be online all the time. To avoid issues with extensive screen time, set time limits from the beginning.
Once you decide your son or daughter is ready to use the internet, don’t just let them loose on Google. Browsers specifically designed for children are the best way to let kids get their feet wet on the internet.
“There are a handful of browsers available that are specifically catered to kids that focus on giving children the opportunity to surf the web in a safe manner free from the many dangers that lurk on the internet,” explains Atilla Tomaschek, a researcher at ProPrivacy. “Kids’ browsers like Pikluk, KidZui, KidSplorer, and Maxthon offer various safety features like whitelisting and blacklisting, link and ad blocking, content filtering by age group, chat restrictions, time limits, and more.”
When you’ve chosen a kid-safe browser, now it’s time to determine what sites are okay for your children to surf. Depending on age and maturity, social-media sites can become problematic for tweens and teens, especially with prevalent cyberbullying. Chat rooms should be avoided as well because they can be a breeding ground for predators.
“A little common sense can go a long way for parents when deciding which websites their children should and shouldn’t be permitted to visit,” Tomaschek says. “Social-media sites and chat rooms can be especially dangerous for impressionable children to visit, so if you feel your child isn’t quite prepared to understand that not everything they see online is what it may seem to be, it would be better to limit their activity on such sites. It can also help to do a little research as well to investigate what sites may or may not be safe for children of a certain age group to access.”
Tomaschek suggests that parents take advantage of browsers like KidSplorer that “includes a database of pre-selected kid-safe websites.”
SafeKids.com says that kids between the ages of 4 and 7 can begin exploring the internet as long as their mom and dad are close by. It’s important to monitor the websites your kids visit and the content they’re viewing. Parental controls are a way to give you a helping hand when it comes to restricting the sites children stumble upon accidentally or on purpose.
“Parental controls can be set through your ISP, your router, web browser, or on the devices themselves that your kids use,” Tomaschek says. “Your ISP should allow you to set parental controls that block specific websites and chat services, filter out certain images and/or videos, set certain time restrictions for internet usage, and more. On your kids’ devices, you should be able to set the parental controls to limit the apps they can use, allow access to only a specific list of websites of your choosing, block access to app stores, and set specific times of the day when the device will function.”
Tomaschek also recommends keeping an eye on search terms kids and teens use. If troubling ones pop up, ask your kids about them.
While the internet is an amazing place, it does have its dark side, and it is important to make kids aware of those dangers just as you do in everyday life.
“Explain to them clearly what dangers may be lurking online, help them understand that not everything online may be what it seems, and make sure they know that they can turn to you for help if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation online,” Tomaschek says. “Do your best to keep them away from chat rooms and make sure they know not to engage with strangers online, to never provide personal information like their full name, email address, home address, or current location to anyone, and to never post photos or videos of themselves online without your permission.”
When you decide to let older kids onto social-media platforms, make sure they know how to block followers. It’s also a good idea to monitor whom they send and accept follow requests from. You don’t want to stalk your kids online, but you do need to be aware of what they’re doing.
When you decide to introduce your children to the internet is up to you. More and more schoolwork requires the internet, but whenever you set them off on the internet highway, use a kid-safe browser like Pikluk. Have them stick to kid-safe websites and avoid social media as long as possible. Utilizing parental controls are a must-do. When kids are online, try to be nearby to monitor, and while it’s an uncomfortable talk, make sure kids understand the dangers lurking on the internet.
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