The internet is only 24 years old in India but its exponential growth in the last two decades is beyond comprehension. Things changed at lightning speed and before we knew it the internet had become an omnipotent presence in our lives. Internet’s darling social media is inexorable and dictating our lives like nothing else. What’s baffling is that kids as young as 2 years old that can’t walk or talk properly, know how to operate a smartphone. The good news is that kids learn so many useful things even before they begin school but on the flip side they also suffer from mental and physical issues so early which is detrimental in the long run.
We have listed out the following ways in which you can keep your children safe from the perils of the internet:
1. Parents should always be a safe zone for kids. They shouldn’t be so afraid of you that they aren’t able to share in case something goes wrong. Understand your child’s normal behavioral pattern because if something goes wrong they won’t always tell you but will show you in their behavior; you have to be aware enough to pick up the cues. Be in the know how about everyone who interacts with them like friends, teachers etc. It’s never too early to teach them about stranger danger and good/bad touch.
2. When the kids are using the internet on a daily basis you should teach them about online etiquette like not befriending strangers or sharing sensitive information etc. because they don’t realize how sharing their number or location with their ”online buddy” could be harmful. Spend time together online so that you can teach them appropriate online behaviour. Always clear history and cache memory to avoid being tracked.
3. As parents we should also exercise restrain when it comes to sharing their pictures or current location on social media sites. It makes them vulnerable to predators. Practice what you preach; stay offline at home and send time with your family. Don’t use the phone or computer too much in front of the kids. Since both parents work nowadays it’s easier to give the phone to the child to keep him/her quiet and busy but it will be detrimental in the future.
4. Children are a curious bunch and way smarter than their parents. So they will always find a way around parental controls. Still, it’s prudent to have them in place. Parental control helps in placing restrictions on contentviewed and time spent online.
5. Use kids specific apps wherein you know that the kids will not be exposed to inappropriate stuff. Android and Apple app stores have limitless options when it comes to apps for children. It is available for kids of all ages and caters to their specific needs like drawing, learning rhymes, listening to stories, homework among others.
6. You can use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to protect your little one as it connects your computer/smartphone to an offsite secure server and uses an encrypted connection to keep your data safe. Browsers with built-in VPN are also available like Opera, Globus, Tenta, Epic Privacy, Tor etc.
7. Safe Search Kids, Kid Info, KidzSearch, Google Scholar and Kiddle are some safe and fun search engines exclusively for kids.
8. Computers should be placed in the living room of the house and smartphones should always be used under adult supervision. Make sure that the computer’s screen is visible from other parts of the room and isn’t turned towards a wall. This keeps children in check and also limits their screen time.
9. Parents should make efforts to learn more about computers and its usage with respect to the internet. That’s the only way to keep up with kids who are more tech savvy than you.
10. Set reasonable time and usage limits because the internet is like a time black hole; entire day goes by in a jiffy and no work gets done. Setting time limits will also ensure that they don’t suffer from vision damage and other health issues and get to focus on other activities like playing with friends, reading etc.
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