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Quarantined? Keeping Your Kids Safe While Online
The Coronavirus outbreaks have led to the CDC is recommending social distancing and schools have been dismissed for several weeks. Our children are turning to the Internet for education and entertainment. How do you keep them safe while online?
Set a Routine
Some schools are offering online curricula so students don’t fall behind. Keep them on their regular school schedule during this time. It will feel less disruptive to the normal daily routine. If your child doesn’t have access to curricula have them review recent homework assignments and tests so it won’t be difficult when they finally do return to school. While the kids will feel they’re on vacation, setting a routine will help them navigate the stress of these unknown times.
Beyond school curriculum, resist the urge to just tell them to ‘do something educational.' My suggestion is to research documentaries, online classes, websites, and youtube videos that delve into subjects your kids are passionate about. Let them know they can game or watch entertaining videos after a couple of hours of feeding their brains.
Discuss the Dangers of Being Online
It is important that children understand that there are risks of infection in the digital world as it is in the physical world currently – which is why we distance ourselves from risk. Discuss with your children the importance of not talking to strangers online or giving out personal information on websites without talking to you first. This also includes clicking on links in emails or social media messaging services. Take this opportunity to discuss online bullying and how to separate themselves from it, not only for their own protection but to prevent them from doing it to others. Finally, discuss the concept of “forever.” Children need to understand what they do online will forever be there – even if they believe that messages on Snapchat disappear.
The easiest way to monitor your children while online is to place the computer or tablet in a common area where everyone hangs out. If this is not possible, there is parental control/monitoring software that will allow you to keep track of what sites are visited and who is communicating with your child. I've used Circle by Disney – which monitors from the router level – as opposed to each device. For devices, get to know parental controls for iPhone or android. If you don't fully understand the ins and outs, watch some videos. Know what social media sites your child uses and spot-check messaging.
Tell your children upfront that the online rules include monitoring so they don’t think you’re spying on them secretly. Too many children don’t report online issues until it’s too late, so keep an open dialogue. Check the browsing history; that’s a sure-fire way to see what sites were visited.
Streaming services have made it easy to watch pretty much anything at the click of a button. Some programming is not appropriate for the under 18 crowd to watch. Now is a good time to set up parental controls so if you still have to work while your child is home, they won’t be tapping into programming they shouldn’t be watching. All services should allow you to view a watching history in your admin section, as well.
When your children understand the rules of the cyber road it makes it easier for them to enjoy their time online while bringing you peace of mind during this scary time. From one parent to another, stay calm but informed, and your children will follow your lead. For more information about staying safe online, check out https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0038-onguardonline