From an early age, children are taught to use computers and computing devices as a way to learn and discover new things. Often, this takes place online, where kids have access to educational materials as well as fun games and other activities. As kids get older, the Internet is not only a place to research and do homework, though; it also becomes a common place for socializing and sharing.
Despite the fact that online activities are often a daily part of children’s lives and they offer many positive benefits, the Internet still has its risks and dangers. These hazards are particularly dangerous for children, who are more trusting and have less of an ability to fend for themselves than adults.
Dangers on the Internet range may include sexual predators, child pornography, hate speech and images, and bullying. These threats may come from strangers but also from their peers or people who they consider friends and acquaintances. A child can even pose a risk to themselves by the actions that they take while online.
Taking pictures of themselves in full or partial nudity or posting highly personal information are detrimental activities that can put a child in personal or even financial danger. Additionally, any information that a child puts online stays online and can haunt them and their future endeavors as an adult.
Websites that expose children to these dangers may be easily accessed by minors, often unintentionally. Children may encounter dangerous sites through misdirected searches, deceptive sites, and even simple searches for cartoon characters or innocent words such as “toys,” for example.
Tips to Effectively Monitor Your Children Online
Fortunately, you can steps to help protect their children from these hazards when they are on the Web. Educating kids about the dangers of the Internet is the first step toward avoiding online threats. Opening up an honest dialog can go a long way with many children, as will setting rules about using social media, email, and the Internet in general.
Although rules and safety talks are crucial, there are also a number of ways that parents can directly monitor online activity. One of the steps that parents can take in their quest to know what their children are doing or are encountering while online is to place the family computer in a central location in the home. When the computer is in a highly visible location, children are less able to hide their activities when they are using it.
This solution is only viable, however, when the child does not have online access in their bedroom or other areas in the home. Another step that parents can take is to follow or “friend” their children’s social media pages. As a social media friend, parents can read what their children are saying, see who is following them, and observe what is being said or shown to them. Web browsers can also partially keep track of a child’s activities by recording what sites they visit in their browsing history logs.
Operating systems and certain routers may also include features that allow parents to monitor computer activity. For example, some wireless routers may be set up so that they can record sites that computers on the network have visited. Another option is to purchase software for online monitoring.
Monitoring software may track websites that a user visits, log the user’s keystrokes, or send emails to the subscriber regarding the computer user’s online activity. Some software may even issue alerts in the event that a user views explicit content or detect if someone makes suspicious attempts to contact their child. Monitoring software and apps are also available for mobile devices such as smartphones. But unless this software comes with filtering features, parents should not assume that it will block children from gaining access to specific sites.
Review the links below to learn how to monitor your children online:
- Parental Control Tools
- Internet Safety
- Tips for Parents (PDF)
- Internet Use in Children
- Internet Safety Month Is a Reminder to Check Children’s Online Activities
- Should Parents Snoop on Their Kids Online? (video)
- New Ways to Track Your Teen Online
- Tips for Monitoring Kids’ Social Media: Use Filtering Software
- Child Watch: The Apps That Let Parents “Spy” on Their Kids
- Apps Help Parents Monitor Children’s Internet Use
- Do You Know What Your Kids Are Doing Online? These Tools Can Help
- Should You Monitor Your Teen’s Online Activity? How to Check Your Teen’s Online Activity
- Internet Safety
- How Do I Keep My Children Safe Online? What the Security Experts Tell Their Kids