5 Ways to Protect Your Kids from Online Predators
Kids are growing up faster than we’ve ever seen before. Years ago we could protect them by avoiding the internet entirely, but now it’s part of our everyday lives. Even in schools, computer and the internet are becoming the new norm.
As a parent myself, I understand the fear that comes along with giving your child access to the internet; it’s a world full of strangers across the globe. We’ve all heard the horror stories but have they? My teenagers hate when I sit them in front of another Dateline episode for a reality check. Sometimes I can talk until I am blue in the face and they don’t understand that the person behind that chat may be dangerous. This type of adulting is my least favorite but it’s my job to protect my kids.
One of the best things you can do for your child is prepare them; knowledge is powerful and it’s that knowledge that can help them to stay safe and make good choices.
I commend you for taking a proactive approach, no matter what anyone else says; the internet is a really big deal for our kids. If you want to protect them from online predators, here’s some great advice. I know making these decisions can be hard because you don’t want to be “that parent”…you know, the overprotective one, but at the end of the day, I am their mom, not their friend. It’ s my job to protect them and i take that very seriously.
Communication: You cannot be afraid to discuss the dangers with your kids. Walk them through the warning signs; educate them about the behaviors of predators online and reiterate over and over to NEVER meet anyone in person that they’ve met online. It’s more important to relate to them than lecture them; you want to keep the lines of communication open so they feel comfortable coming to you if something doesn’t feel right. If you haven’t told them lately, let them know that you’re in their corner; always.
Supervise: I strongly suggest buying desktop computers instead of laptops and place them in shared spaces of the house; such as a family room. It’s much easier for you to walk on by and check out what’s going on. Since children are getting cell phones at young ages, ask yourself if they truly need one and limit their online capabilities. No one needs access to the internet 24 hours a day. Cell phones should be put away at a reasonable hour at night and they should understand that you can and will monitor texts, messages and internet use. I always checked text messages and I have even compared them to our bill to make sure they aren’t deleting texts they don’t want me to see. This may seem extreme but if they are deleting texts, there is a reason. Until high school, we shared a family email address that only I have access to. Some may think that this is an invasion of privacy but that privacy leads to predators. No kids needs privacy for any good reason, that I am certain.
Use Parental Control Software and Apps: There are a ton of tools available for parents to monitor your child’s behavior. It’s not that you don’t trust them; it’s the strangers online you’re watching out for. Gaming is a popular way that online predators will try to connect with children. I urge you to enforce strict guidelines for interacting and engaging with people you don’t know; it’s just not worth the risk. I have always been “that mom”, you know…the overprotective one. We have parental controls on all of our phones. All phones shut off at 9:00 p.m. every night. My kids are very cranky if they don’t get their sleep and if they could be on their phones all night, they would. I don’t mind being that mom for their success.
I also have it limited during school hours. They don’t need to text their friends all day when they are at school. They are there to learn. One thing my daughter told me after she graduated was THANK YOU for setting parental controls on my phone. I was floored. She knew that if she didn’t have boundaries she wouldn’t have slept and survived.
Social Media Don’ts: Social media is one of the easiest ways that online predators find out information about your kids. Consider age recommendations for each platform, take advantage of all privacy settings and make it a point to know who is on their friends list. Social media can be great but it’s not always the best when trying to protect your kids.
Share with them these Social Media Don’ts:
Never download anything without permission
Connect with no one over the age of 18 unless approved
Do not engage in conversations related to sex, drugs, violence or hate speech. Disconnect immediately!
Keep location settings turned off, absolutely no checking-in or telling people where you are at. Especially when out with friends. (Parents are the worst culprits of sharing this information publicly)
When we set up our daughter’s FB, we set it up with an email she didn’t have access to. So, when she would get messages, we would get an email notification. This was the same for friend requests. She thought it was ridiculous but we didn’t care. We trusted her but we didn’t trust other people. It’s our job to keep our kids safe and we take that seriously even if that means our kids don’t agree.
Love Them: Truth is, kids that start chatting with strangers are usually just looking to make a new friend or connect with someone. Make it a point to spend time with them, let them know you’re there for them and that you love them wholeheartedly. Provide opportunities for them to do things outside of the internet and you’ll find they live a much more fulfilling life.
Parenting is not joke and technology brings new meaning to Mama Bear. Your kids are growing up and they’ll be making decisions without you soon enough; let’s equip them to make the right ones.
Let’s also be thankful that Snapchat and Facebook weren’t catching our every mistake and taunting us during our younger years.
So, so thankful.