How can you protect your child online?
On April the 30th, 1993 the internet was made available for use by the public. Since then, its influence on every aspect of our lives, both personal and professional, has been revolutionary. Of course, much of it has been good, changing our lives for the better. We can work from home, communicate with far-away families on Facetime and easily access knowledge from an infinite resource. However, the social communication channels that have developed can have a dark side.
As a parent, you must realize that when you give your child a device connected to the internet, including a cell phone, you are opening your front door to the whole world. The media often reports internet grooming of young children by predators using messaging platforms, and it is very easy for children to access pornography or other inappropriate material. Perhaps your knee-jerk reaction may be to refuse your child a cell phone altogether. This approach is unrealistic as it is almost impossible for anyone to be entirely ‘off the net’ today. It is even more difficult for a child. Without a cell phone, they will be excluded from contact with their friendship groups outside school and become socially isolated. In addition, many schools, even at the primary level, use online resources for homework.
The genie is out of the bottle, so how can you guard your child against the harmful effects of internet use?
Fortunately, there are apps available to help you control your child’s cell phone use. If you have an android phone then a great example can be found at Family Orbit. These apps enable you to monitor your child’s activities by answering the following questions:
Who are they talking to?
In our grandparents’ day, the phone was often in the hall, and all conversations were public announcements! Children can use cell phones anywhere, and it’s important to know that your child is only contacting people who have their best interests at heart. Apps will enable you to monitor both text messages and calls.
Where are they?
Many parents will welcome the ability to see where their children are in real-time. Did they get to track on time or are they still at their friend’s house? Are they somewhere unexpected – should you call them?
Which images are they sharing?
A common feature of online predator activity is to ask young people to share photographs of themselves. A monitoring app will enable you to see the pictures that your children are taking and sharing.
What are they looking at?
You probably don’t want your child to look at adult material or websites expressing ideas and values that you don’t want your kids to hold. The app will also enable you to see what they have been looking at so that you can address any ‘bad’ ideas that they may be developing.
The final issue you have to face is whether or not you tell your child that you have installed the monitoring app on their phone!