Technology Tuesday: Mapping the Territory: 5 Steps Toward Developing an Internet Safety Plan

By Sean Wright, Founder & President of Affinity Technology Partners

In our last post, we outlined the dangers kids and teens face online as well as why the task of protecting them is challenging. We also promised to walk you through steps you can take to develop a holistic internet safety plan for your family.

Below are the first five steps in that process. As you’ll see, they involve important information gathering that will help you make good decisions regarding which safeguards will best help you accomplish your goals as a parent.

Step 1: Take a Device Inventory

The first step in developing an internet safety plan for your family is to take a complete inventory of all the devices your kids use to access internet content and communicate with others.

To help you out, here’s a list of the different kinds of devices your kids might use:

  • Laptop computers
  • Desktop computers
  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Gaming consoles (PlayStation, XBox, Nintendo 2DS/3DS)
  • iPod
  • Streaming devices (Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Google ChromeCast)
  • Smart TVs

Step 2: Consider How Each Device Connects and Communicates

After you have a list of all the devices your kids use, it’s time to consider how these devices are connecting to the internet and facilitating communication, as this information will determine the kinds of safeguards you can implement. Here’s a list to consider, along with the devices typically involved:

  • Your Home WiFi: all devices
  • Others’ Home WiFi: all devices taken to friends’ homes
  • School WiFi: all devices taken to school 
  • Public WiFi: all devices taken out in public
  • Data Plans: smartphones and tablets
  • SMS: smartphones and other cell phones
  • Bluetooth: phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, iPods

Step 3: Know Where You Can Put Filtering and Monitoring

The reason you need to have an awareness not only of which devices your kids use but also of how those devices connect is that safeguards can reside either on the devices themselves or at their point of connection to the internet. Most internet safety plans involve a mixture of both kinds of safeguards. For now, though, consider these possibilities of where safeguards can reside, and why you might want to put them there:

  • On a home wireless router: Safeguards (usually content filters) at this level apply to all devices using WiFi to connect to the internet in your home. They’re great for protecting streaming devices and game systems, as well as for providing a baseline of protection for computers, tablets, and smartphones connecting to WiFi in your home.
  • On a school’s wireless router: While you may not have much control over whether your school puts safeguards at the network level, it’s important to be aware of what is offered. In our experience, most schools have at least some controls in place, but it’s always good to check.
  • On the device itself: Safeguards installed on devices (computers, smartphones, or tablets) are good for protecting them when they are not on a filtered network, such as when they are accessing content over a data plan. 

Step 4: Define Your Overall Goals

Because no two families are alike, and no two kids or teens are alike, each family’s internet safety plan will look different. It’s important, then, to decide from the beginning what your goals are—that is, what you want the technical safeguards you implement to do. Here’s a list of options:

  • Prevent access to inappropriate content
  • Monitor your child’s web browsing
  • Monitor your child’s social media activity
  • Monitor your child’s texting activity
  • Monitor your child’s app downloads
  • Prevent downloading apps unless you approve
  • Restrict internet access at certain times
  • Set limits on overall screentime

Step 5: Take a Breath, and Take It Slow

We know – considering all these options for all these devices can be overwhelming. That’s why we guide parents through creating an internet safety plan in stages. It’s important to be realistic and not try to do everything at once. 

So, for this week, let it be enough that you’ve created an inventory of devices and how they interact with the internet, understood where safeguards can be placed, and thought about what you want safeguards to do. Next week, we’ll guide you through the next steps toward actually choosing and implementing the best safeguards for your family.

Have questions in the meantime? Give us a shout.

Sean Wright is Founder and President of Affinity Technology Partners, a company devoted to making technology a force for good in households throughout Greater Nashville. Sean has put his passion for technology to use by helping families and businesses adapt technology to their needs for over 14 years.