Technology and the Internet have become the primary outlets that many young people use to communicate and to express themselves. Understandably, this has created new parental concerns in the digital era.
While the Internet is a powerful tool, it can also be challenging for parents worried about online safety, especially for those less tech savvy than their children. The challenge becomes greater for parents who do not have the necessary tools and guidance to monitor a child when they are not around.
In fact, recent Intego research found that many parents were very concerned about not always being around to monitor their children’s online activities.
One thing is certain: Internet safety is a must. There will always be unscrupulous individuals looking to creep into a child’s online experience. Thankfully there are a number of proven strategies that proactive, engaged parents can use—parental controls and password protections, for example—to keep their children safe online.
An open dialogue that builds trust, teaches resilience and instills diligence in a child can lead to a safer online experience, but for parents just starting to explore the world of Internet safety, knowing what to do can be overwhelming. Where is a good place to start?
That’s where Intego comes in. Over the coming weeks we will be publishing helpful tips that address parental concerns in the digital era. Our Five Minute Family Protection Tips will provide parents with bite-sized practical advice based around family Internet safety and are here to help.
First though, understand that creating a safe online environment for a child shouldn't be a cause of stress. In fact, it can be enjoyable and is much easier to manage once set up.
To help parents navigate through the maze of online safety, today we'll start by getting a few things straight:
- What dangers do parents worry about most when they are not around to monitor their children's online activities?
- What can be done to mitigate the online risks posed to naive children?
- How to approach teenagers by creating a safe surfing environment, but one that still gives them independence?
So let's get started! We begin with one of the biggest dangers (and a major parental concern) on the Internet:
Predators: Stranger Danger!
A recent study undertaken by the ISC² Foundation found that almost 1-in-5 schoolchildren aged between 9 and 11 years old admitted to meeting up with strangers they speak to on the Internet—in half of these instances, the child went alone.
These stats will give any parent the heebie-jeebies. The same survey also found 15% of parents never check online activities, more than a third of children access the Internet from their bedrooms, and 30% of children have never received information on how to use the Internet safely.
Education for everyone involved is important, parent and child included, but ensuring a child’s safety starts with parents. A helpful tip for parents is to stay engaged with how a child is using the Internet and attempt to open a dialogue about what is appropriate online behavior.
With so many ways for a stranger to find and contact vulnerable children online, parents should educate them about being cautious and aware of predators—online and offline.
It is important to set clear guidelines about when, how and with which parties children should reveal information to. If a parent suspects their child is putting themselves at risk, consider monitoring Internet chat sessions to make sure they are not having inappropriate conversations with a stranger.
An easy way to monitor chats is with the use of Intego's parental control software, Intego ContentBarrier, which includes Anti-Predator chat monitoring for all standard chat protocols to watch for objectionable chat content and block inappropriate chats.
Keep in mind this is not an invasion of privacy, but rather a demonstration of care and love. A certain level of trust is important, especially for older children, but younger kids often struggle to understand the full situation or context.
After all, it is better to be cautious and to care rather than ending up on the front page of a newspaper as the next horror story.