By Sean Wright, Founder & President of Affinity Technology Partners
This post wraps up a four-part series aimed at giving parents the knowledge they need to protect children from dangerous content and interactions online. The first post discussed the dangers, such as pornography, cyberbullying, and sexting, and introduced the comprehensive internet safety plan. The second post walked you through taking a device inventory and defining your goals for internet safety. And our third post gave you a guide to five kinds of technical safeguards that can help you achieve your internet safety goals.
In our final post, we want to leave you with five tips that, in our experience, help make internet safety plans a lasting success for families.
1. Be Proactive
The best case scenario is for parents to recognize the need for action and create an internet safety plan before their kids or teens’ experience online becomes problematic – before they stumble onto pornography or experience cyberbullying, for instance. That way, parents can rest assured that appropriate guardrails have been placed around their children’s online activity, and that they are equipped to address any problems quickly after they arise.
This isn’t to say that internet safety plans aren’t effective for families where children are already struggling with exposure to dangerous content or interactions. It’s just to reiterate that the sooner you come up with a plan, the easier it will be to implement, and the better off your family will be.
2. Communicate with Your Kids and Teens
As we’ve stated before, we view the technical safeguards as only one component of a comprehensive, holistic internet safety plan. In our experience, technical safeguards work best in homes where healthy lines of communication are open for parents and children to discuss the kinds of behavior that are and are not acceptable online.
3. Stay Engaged
On that same note, while the safeguards we recommend do a great job of putting boundaries around online activity, that doesn’t mean that parents should forget about their children’s digital lives once they’re in place. In fact, many of the tools we recommend are actually designed to facilitate parental engagement.
Consider smartphone apps. On an iPhone, for instance, we recommend that parents use built-in parental controls to require approval before their child downloads an app. This gives parents the opportunity to research the apps their child wants. Apps like After School, an anonymous social media stream targeted at teens, can be a haven for cyberbullies. And some apps, such as Calculator+, are specifically designed to allow the user to hide photos and videos. By using the right technical safeguards and engaging with their children’s digital lives, parents can spot potentially problematic apps like these and have healthy conversations with their children about them.
4. Keep a List of Resources
Thankfully, there are a number of good resources available for parents who want to protect their kids and teens online. Common Sense Media has a wealth of information for parents, including reviews of apps. At Affinity Technology Partners, we also provide parents with helpful tips and updates through our blog and email newsletter. Furthermore, we offer parents help with customizing and implementing internet safety plans.
And if your kids or teens do encounter damaging content or communications online, counseling centers such as Daystar Counseling Ministries provide helpful support for any issues that may arise from them.
5. Make It a Community Effort
You are not alone in your effort to protect your children from the dangers inherent in the internet and digital communication. Talk to other parents about what they are doing to protect their kids. Share your experiences with technical safeguards and the parenting strategies you find helpful. Talk to your school or church about hosting a forum on internet safety, and reach out to us if you’d like an expert to present on the topic. The more we make internet safety a matter for community conversation, the better off we will all be in our common goal to keep kids and teens safe online and help them grow up into responsible digital citizens.
Have questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out to the Affinity team, or comment below!
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.