Moms? Let’s face it. Even though we may not want to admit it, our babies grow up. I’m still in shock that in a few weeks, my Emma will be celebrating her 11th birthday. She’s growing fast and while I’m totally not okay with that, I’ve grown to accept it over the last 11 years. I’m more than sure that all parents go through this and that I will survive it even if I am completely gray by the time she becomes an adult. The older she gets though, the more I find myself worrying. This world is a very large place with very real threats to tweens and teens. As her mother, it is my job to keep her safe from all of that until she’s old enough to do it herself. As such, I’ve learned a few things as she’s gotten older and her interests turn to things online and on phone. That’s where these 5 ways to keep your tweens safe online come into play.
I want to make it perfectly clear that by online, I don’t mean only on the computer. These days, online encompasses everything from their phone to their tablets and more. Keeping them safe across all of their devices should be our priority instead of only focusing on one device and forgetting the rest. It’s usually those “other” devices that our slick kids can slip things by on or that we can totally overlook and not realize it. It is those instances, those forgotten e-readers, the overlooked phone, the email account that you didn’t know about, that can pose the biggest threat to your kids when they’re online because guess what parents? The online world is the one place that you truly can lose track of your kids if you allow that to happen.
5 Ways to Keep Your Tween and Teen Safe Online
The thing about protecting your kids online is that they may not always be grateful for it. They’re kids. They won’t always understand your reasons. They won’t always agree with you. They will absolutely roll their eyes and sigh loudly and be absolutely certain that you’re overreacting as a parent…again. They will fight you and they will accuse you of not trusting them and you, as their parent should allow them to. After all, they’re growing kids and need to learn how to flex their own voice in life. It is a lesson they need to learn and in this case, one that could very well be a life or death lesson. Keeping them safe in a place like the online world can be though is a full time job almost. It can be hard, it can be tedious, but you can absolutely make it easier on yourself.
Talk to them about online safety – Teaching your kids how to protect themselves is the first step to keeping them safe. If they’re older, a simple discussion could do the job, but if they’re younger, you may want something a bit more substantial. NetSmartz can help do that with online lessons and things and they also offer actual teaching tools that you can have sent to you. We did this with our daughter as part of her homeschool computer classes and she really enjoyed going through the binder and the lessons that they sent. StaySafeOnline.org is another great resource for parents who are looking to keep their kids safe online.
Teach them about privacy – In an online environment, it can be very easy for kids to trust someone who may not be deserving of that trust. When that happens, they can be talked into or even tricked into giving away personal info. To help avoid this, teach them to never give out their real name, address, phone or even their email address. These days, your complete contact info, your job and more can all be tracked down with very little information. If your kids are shielding theirs, they’ll be one step closer to staying safe. Teach them to only visit known sites on the computer so that they don’t fall victim to a phishing (or worse) scam. Teach them to not give out personal info over the phone. Teach them to only download apps to their tablets from a trusted source. For younger kids who have a Kindle Fire, sign them up for Amazon FreeTime Unlimited. The program not only allows you to control how long they’re playing, but also only features kid safe apps, books, and videos and can be set up on your Kindle if they don’t have their own as a kid account.
Monitor them – As bad as it might sound, keeping an eye on what your kids are doing online is just plain smart. Tweens and teens won’t always tell you if something is going on. They won’t always tell you exactly what they’re doing online or who they’re talking to. Having a way to monitor your teens phone and tablet like Teen Safe offers is a very simple way to help keep them safe. It doesn’t mean you’re invading their privacy. It means you’re doing what you can to keep them from falling into a situation that they can’t get out of. For computers, use a program like K9 Web Protection to filter out things you don’t want them to see or to check what they have been viewing.
Limit their online time – Do you remember when you were a kid? Would your parents have allowed you to sit on the phone or television all day? Likely not so why would you allow your kids to do the same with their devices. There is a wide, vast outside that your kids can play in. I’m sure they have rooms full of toys and books to amuse themselves with. They don’t need to be on their devices for hours each day. Instead, protect them by limiting how long their online. Allow them to have twenty or thirty minutes per day and make them get creative for the rest of their time. Obviously you can’t limit their phone time if they need to keep it on them to be able to call you, but for the rest of the devices they use? You absolutely can.
Make it a family affair – Unless your teens are about to leave home, they have no real need for a computer in their room or to use their tablets in there either. Keep those devices in the family room where they can have an eye kept on them. This is especially true for tweens who are new to navigating the web on their own. I really like how my good friend over at Midwest Modern Momma manages her kid’s tablet time. Her children are required to earn a specific amount of points each day by doing chores, etc. At the end of the day, those points are then turned into tablet time. Once tablet time is done, the tablets themselves are put up until the next day. We’ve put a similar system into place for our daughter that includes not only her tablet, but phone time and computer time as well.
Finally? Realize that no matter what you do, no matter how much you try to protect them, no matter how hard you work at it? You will never truly be able to keep them from it all. The world is vast, the internet is vast and your kids are kids. They will get into messes, they will make mistakes and that is part of growing up. With that said? Don’t let that stop you from doing everything in your power to try and prevent those mistakes.
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