What parents and caregivers can do to help children stay safe online. Plus, what internet safety resources are available to keep you informed of potentially dangerous sites and apps.
By Shelby Mitchell
Sexual Assault Center Advocate
With so much happening in the country and the world right now, teaching our children how to stay safe on the internet might not feel like a priority. But knowing how to keep your kids safe online is as critical as ever. Nearly all school-aged children have spent months adjusting to online learning and finished the school year in this way. Many summer schools and summer camps are also making the move to online learning. And next school year, many students can expect to continue learning online at least part-time. Our children are being presented with more technology and devices, for a greater part of the day, than ever before.
With technology playing such an important role in our lives right now, it important to be aware of the dangers your child’s devices and the internet may pose. Predators often use social media and other social networking sites and apps to gain access to vulnerable people – especially children.
The following resources can help you stay up to date on the dangers that exist to create a safer online environment for your child:
Protect Young Eyes: The website www.protectyoungeyes.com, can give you up-to-date information on the safety features and risks of a variety of different sites. This website is a great tool to help empower parents and caregivers about the apps that are out there and what they are used for. Being armed with this information will help you to have educated conversations with your children about their boundaries on the internet.
Family Share Accounts: Agent Carl Waterstreet of the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigations works on internet-based crimes and states, “Some of the major things parents can do right now is set up a family share account on their phones. This allows parents to control and monitor screen time, apps to download, and offer a backdoor way to turn their phones on and off. It’s simple to set up, just go to settings on either your Apple or Android device and find the right tab to set it up.”
For instructions on how to set up a Family Share Account on iPhone or Android, click here.
Protect Kids Online: With all of this unexpected time at home, another great resource is the podcast Protect Kids Online. If you are not the podcast type, simply go to www.protectkidsonlinewi.gov and you can get the same content through your web browser.
The Protect Kids Online (PKO) Podcast is brought to you by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. This podcast is designed as a resource for parents, grandparents, guardians, or caregivers of children. It is an excellent resource to learn about trends and updates on the latest apps, websites, and online activity of children age 17 and younger. Topics on the podcast include: activities of the Wisconsin ICAC Task Force; App of the Week; tips & methods for combating online child exploitation and sextortion; Internet safety laws; cyberbullying; healthy online habits; protecting your child from strangers online; safe sharing tips; and responses to listener questions.
With this new age of virtual connection and online learning, the American Academy of Pediatrics has also created a few tips for parents and caregivers of very young children that are tailored to these unique times. Here are those guidelines, categorized by children’s ages:
Age 2 and under: It is advised that children younger than 18 months avoid all screen media, except for video chats with close family and friends. Parents of children age 18 to 24 months who want to introduce digital media are advised to choose high-quality programming and watch it with their children. Talk to them and help them understand what they’re seeing.
Age 2-5 years old: Limit screen use to high-quality programs for 1 hour per day. Parents and caregivers should view all media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and help them apply it to the world around them.
Age 6 and older: Place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity or other behaviors that are essential to your child’s health.
Stay informed, stay healthy, and keep your children safe!