As we all know by now, the Internet is great!
Information, connections, and opportunities at the touch of a button or swipe of a finger. As more and more of us go online, and the age of the average user becomes lower and lower, we have to consider the responsibility we have to safeguard the wellbeing of those that come after us into this new digital age.
I was recently out for breakfast with my girlfriend, across from us was a family of three (mom, dad and baby girl) the parents were on their cell phones and the baby, maybe two or three, had a tablet. It made me think, this child will never know a time when she couldn’t find someone or order something by using the device in her hand. She’ll never know a time when notifications, news updates or social media post were not a part of daily life, then I thought, I hope those parents put on the parental controls that came with that tablet because they have no idea what she is looking at right now.
We hear all the time about Cyberbullying, Predators, and kids either viewing or sharing inappropriate material, and while there is no way to 100% protect kids from these things, there are steps we can take to make it just that much harder for them to be exposed.
Many, if not all, tablets and phones produced after 2010, come with some form of parental control. Whether this is blocking access to certain sites or apps or making so that the credit card associated with the account that was set up on the device can not make purchases without a password or code.
There are also features that limit the use time. For example, iOS and Android devices have a setting called Screen Time that turns the device off at a designated time. Another idea is to purchase age-appropriate devices like the Amazon Fire Kids Edition or the Samsung Galaxy Kids and the PBS Playtime Pad.
What about Social Media? Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are very popular and the ability to connect with friends and family from around the world has helped to make the Internet the wonder it is but there is a dark side. Trolls, Predators, Bullys, and Cyber Criminals abound on the Internet and unfortunately, they do use Social Media as a tool for harassment and worse.
The one thing you can do to protect kids on Social Media is to teach them awareness. Teach them to not share personal information like location or age, teach them to not post pictures of themselves (especially inappropriate pictures), teach them that its not okay to talk to adults online without approval and that it’s okay to tell you if someone says something online that the kids don’t like and not to be ashamed for saying something.
This is no way a complete list but hopefully, it helps to start the conversation that we need to have with the next generation of users and hopefully it will help grow cyber awareness.