Internet Safety for Kids
What is the best way to keep your kids safe on their online devices?
Does your child have a device where they can connect to the internet? Parents are faced with kids using electronic devices at very young ages. But, how do we keep our kids safe? I recently spent some time with the founder and CEO of FOSI: the Family Online Safety Institute, Stephen Balkam and also Erin McCowey the Program Assistant at FOSI. I also learned about the new Verizon Smart Family app from David Weissmann, the public relations manager for Verizon in the North East. Many of the issues parents are facing in the digital age can be solved with the Verizon Smart Family app.
How can you be a good digital parent?
Our kids have access to technology that many of their parents did not grow up with. Parents must be comfortable giving their child a device that will allow them to go online and know that they will be safe using it. FOSI is a great organization that can help parents navigate these experiences. You can sign up for a good digital parent presentation and toolkit from FOSI at this link. You will learn how to understand the risks involved with allowing access to the online world.
FOSI has also created some excellent contracts for you to give to your child along with their new device. These contracts can be printed at home and signed by both children and parents. There are 6 different contracts with different rules and expectations. The contracts are available for cell phones, tablets, computers, gaming systems, smartphones, and also wearable devices. The FOSI website is an incredible resource for parents trying to navigate the digital world.
The 7 steps to being a good digital parent:
It is so important that you know how to be a good digital parent. Children are accessing the internet younger each year. Schools are requiring children to use electronic devices to do homework. As school is just beginning, do not get caught unprepared. With these 7 steps you can feel confident in your ability to parent in the digital age.
- Talk to your kids. Keep calm and talk with your kids before giving them access to their first device. Be open and available for them to feel comfortable talking with you.
- Parents must stay educated and on top of the latest technology. Technology changes and 5000 new apps are added to the app store every day. If you do not understand an app or program, do your research! There is no excuse for not understanding what your kids are doing. Keep up to date at this link on FOSI.
- Use parental controls. Parental controls are available for parents to use, why ignore them? Safety settings like the Verizon Smart family app, are also available to help parents monitor what their kids are doing online. Activate parental controls on your kid’s phones, tablets, and game devices. Pay attention to your children’s device use and screen time.
- Set ground rules and also determine consequences. Sit down with your kids and set family ground rules and also consequences if the rules are not followed. Every family member should sign a family contract and follow it. Many parents like to have a charging space in a central location where all the cell phones charge each night, away from the bedrooms. Enforce consequences when necessary.
- Friend and follow your kids but do not stalk them. Insist that your kids friend you on their social media accounts so that you can see everything they are posting. But respect your children’s online accounts and do not make embarrassing comments that they will be upset with. Teach your children how to create a good digital footprint online.
- Explore, Share and Celebrate your kids online. Go online with your kids, especially when they are young, and explore the online world alongside them. Take advantage of this new way to communicate. My kids sometimes prefer to text me than call me. Learn about the latest apps from your kids, the experts.
- Be a good digital role model. Your kids are always watching what you do. Keep that in mind before posting a rude comment or inappropriate article. Do not set an example of a poor digital footprint. Encourage the whole family to unplug for dinner each night, or one night a week for game night. Collaborate with your kids online and use their devices to encourage everyone to work together.
Fill out a Family Online Safety Contract with your children. You can print your own here.
The Verizon Smart Family App is a great way to monitor your children’s devices
If you are on the Verizon Wireless Network you can access the Verizon Smart Family app and all of the parental controls. Sign up now for a free Premium 30-day trial and see how it helps your family. The premium services include GPS tracking and alerts for all the phones on your Verizon plan. The regular Smart Family plan is only $4.99 a month for all the services except the GPS tracking and alerts, which is $9.99 a month. The Verizon Smart Family app is a great way for parents to have peace of mind while their children can have a little more freedom with their technology. This app allows parents to establish limits with their children. One of my favorite features is the pause the internet button. You can ask all of your children to come to eat dinner, but then you will hear, “my video has 10 more minutes” or “I need to play one more Fortnite match”. With the touch of a button, Mom can stop the access to the internet and everyone will magically appear at the dinner table on time. Here are some things you can do with the Verizon Smart Family app:
- Set up content filters on their devices
- Block certain websites
- Block certain video games
- Limit screen time, or data amounts, or texts, or phone calls
- Block inappropriate apps
- Pause the internet to specific devices with the touch of a button.
Three teachable moments in your children’s lives that you need to be prepared for:
- First Phone: When your child gets their first phone you need to set ground rules. Prepare a contract and establish your ground rules before your child can use the phone. Explain the consequences for breaking a rule in the contract. Set time limits together and agree on times your child cannot use the phone.
- Turning 13: When your child turns 13 you should talk about allowing your child to join certain social media sites and apps. Make sure your child friends you and understands what is appropriate to post and not to post. Set the child’s social media accounts to private and make sure your child knows the people who he friends online.
- Your child can drive: When your child can drive s/he needs to know the laws and rules for having a phone in the car while driving. Explain to your child how dangerous it is to text and drive. In many states, it is against the law to even be holding the phone while driving. Show your child apps and settings which will send a message while they are driving, “I am driving right now and will call or text you back as soon as I get where I am going.”
How do you keep yourself and your kids safe online? Leave me a comment below.