Children and Social Networking - Keeping Kids Safe Online
I like to start these types of hubs by expressing my own personal viewpoint. I feel that anyone under the age 18 should have their social networking severely restricted and heavily monitored. This monitoring is the parent's responsibility and while that responsibility can be shared, it is ultimately the parent's responsibility to track and monitor their child's interactions with social media and the use of the Internet in general just as it has always been the parent's responsibility to monitor their child's actions and behavior outside of the house in the real world.
Do you think social media should be restricted by age?
But what are the guidelines? As far as the real world goes parents usually had the basics set out by the generation before them, the ones that monitored them when they were children. But this is the first generation raised with a virtual world that has become as big a part of the real world as any physical thing could be. What do parents have today that they can refer to and say 'Yeah, that's the general idea'?
There are a lot of opinions on the matter for sure, some say let the kids run free in the virtual world, some say we need to censor the internet, some say don't let them use it at all! None of these are all that practical as a solution in today's 21st century.
After raising three kids while living the life of an IT professional and true computer lover I have come to understand that the internet is truly a wonderous thing we have invented, but it has everything humanity can possibly produce and because of this there is a light side and a dark side. The trick is to slowly introduce our kids to the light while shielding them from the darkness. I say slowly because darkness is tricky and sometimes hides in the light, we need to be as cautious as we would when we teach them to cross the street without getting hit or when we explain to them exactly why they cannot talk to strangers in the park.
When allowing our children to access the internet we should keep the following in mind:
Know the rules
Do you have household rules governing the use of the internet?
1. Never give your children administrative level access to any computing device you own.
You are the administrator on your little network, such as it may be, and like chefs and their famous soup, too many network administrators can spoil the network. No matter how basic your setup is, a laptop, a desktop, or multiple devices, giving your child administrative access to any of it allows them to simply by-pass your attempts to keep them safe. Not only that but they learn a lot faster than you, because they are children of course, giving them administrative level access will allow them to learn the ins and outs of computing at a faster pace which will add to your difficulty in keeping them safe in the virtual world. Don't worry, they will be well versed in the use of computers by the time they reach adulthood.
In the Microsoft world the child could be setup using his/her own user name and you add the child to the 'power user' group which should allow your child all the access needed to use the computer as any other would but not enough access to turn off firewalls or unblock sites or other administrative tasks.
In the Apple world simply create the account for the child but ensure 'user can administer this computer' check box is not selected.
A simple note on passwords; your child's account does not have to have a password assigned to it if you would prefer that but yours does as does any administrative level account require a password. Do not give your password to your child - this will defeat the purpose of everything you are trying to accomplish.
2. Constantly monitor their access on the internet.
This does not mean stand behind them physically watching them but it does mean that you should know how to review internet history, block websites, access their email accounts, chat logs, every social media account they have, downloads, uploads everything. Worried about privacy? Well, this hub is not written for government officials to decide policy to apply to everyone. It is written for individual use and a parent has every right in the world to monitor their children at this level, all the way up to legal adulthood.
However, having said that this rule should be applied with a grain of salt when the child gets in to teenage years. Many things will determine the level of monitoring, trust levels, behavior, grades, etc. But children under 12 should definitely be monitored as discussed in the above paragraph.
3. Don't be afraid to block websites.
The ability to block websites is your number one ally when it comes to keeping the kids safe on the internet. Be prepared to re-visit your list and add sites to it. Do not use 'blocking' as a form of discipline. This will also derail your plan to keep them safe while on the internet. At first you should spend some time adding the initial sites you may want to block before you let your child log on for the first time.
What's the difference between blocking and parental controls you may ask? Well, blocking allows you to be very specific about what you block and allows you to block sites not normally covered by the parental controls. Even so, you should use both these functions, parental controls to block unwanted content means you do not need to know a specific website's name to keep it out of your child's view, blocking allows you to target specific websites that can sometimes fool the parental controls or that you simply do not want your child to see.
4. Know who their friends are
You should never allow your child to add 'friends' to their facebook page (or whatever social media website they are using) that they physically don't know. For the under 12 crowd, social media circle lists should contain family members and some known friends. The parent should know who these friends are. There is absolutely no need for your child to have 'friends ' they do not know. This is a prime avenue for Internet trolls and bullies to approach your child. Only people they know personally or are related to them should be on their media lists.
Do you teach your kids how to block online bullies?
A special note on schools in the 21 st century. As a parent one should be extra careful about social interactions betweens your child and other classmates. Many online bullies get their start in the school yard - there are other methods for bullies to approach your children online as mentioned earlier, but this is a primary one for sure. Basically, we need to teach our kids to make use of simple blocking tools and to be selective when giving out cell phone numbers to classmates. Not every classmate needs to have your child's cell phone number, and parents definitely need to be aware of who their child's friends really are and exactly what kind of online conversations they are having. This is not the behavior of a over protective parent or a control freak.. this is simply good parenting when it comes to the Internet.
Social Media and School
Should Social media access be restricted at schools?
5. Take the time to sit with your child and set up social media and other internet accounts together.
This way you can guide your child through the setup process and explain to them why they should be careful about giving out too much information and also what it basically means when they click on 'I accept'. Also, this gives you the ability to record passwords and user account names, which is something you should definitely do. It also gives you the ability to know exactly what websites your child tends to access so that when you review the access logs at a later date, which you should do on a regular basis, you will be able to recognize anything that you did not setup with your child.
So many websites
Do you know how to log in to every social media account your child has?
You should log in and review these accounts on a regular basis. Don't be afraid to remove 'friends' that should not be there, check the chat logs and messages, block offensive people, etc. Personally, for children under 12, I do not think you need even inform your child that you are logging in as them. This of course is a personal choice of the parent.
Summing it all up
As with any rules or ideas governing children and their safety and upkeep, these ones should be taken with a grain of salt for the over 12 crowd. Many factors will determine what level of monitoring and blocking will be required and you should be prepared to unblock sites you had blocked when they were under 12. As your children age, the levels of maturity and trust will determine the level of monitoring required.
Parents should really take the time to learn how to use the website blockers contained in most web browsers today. Also, many of these small home networks contain routers to help manage multiple connections to the internet from within a household. This type of setup is common in homes with more than one computer. Parents should take the time to learn how to use the logs, reports and tools that are standard issue on many of these routers. They are usually far more robust in managing internet content than the tools shipped with the various operating systems. They can be complicated, but worth the effort.
Generally speaking, the internet can be a very good place for our kids to communicate with each other and learn things they may never get to know during the course of a standard education. The internet can also be a very bad place as well with all of humanity's darkness lurking on it. Don't insist that the government censor it, prohibition never solved a single problem, you censor it.
Your children's safety is critical. The internet is not a safe place there is as much danger on the net as there is in the public park for our children. We know what it means to 'keep an eye on them' in the literal, real world sense, but do we know how to do it in the virtual sense? I believe that the guidelines given above are excellent ground rules to start out with and introduce your child to this big marvel of humanity slowly over the course of their childhood.
Leave some Feedback
Do you think parents have the right to monitor their children's internet use?
Are we lulled into a false sense of security due to the 'virtual' nature of the internet?
Links the help setup and monitor your network
- HTG Explains: Understanding Routers, Switches, and Network Hardware
- How to Set Up a Wired or Wireless Home Network: 12 Steps
How to Set Up a Wired or Wireless Home Network. Have more than one computer in your house? How about any gaming systems like Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii? Well it may be useful to have your own HOME network to be able to connect to the...
- Home Network Router Advisor - Choose the Best Wireless Router
Answer a few simple questions about your home networking goals and needs, and this interactive advisor will provide listings for suitable wireless routers.
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© 2014 Robin Olsen