No matter where you are in the process of understanding online safety challenges and implementing strategies in your home, these guiding principles may be helpful to keep in mind as you build your Online Safety Toolkit.
Begin with Offline Safety
There are many skills that you can teach your children offline that can carry over into their digital lives. Learning about bodily autonomy, boundaries, and red flags of manipulation can help kids understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships and communication and set boundaries. When they feel empowered to set boundaries, they are less susceptible to grooming by online predators.
Define Your Boundaries
Online safety practices vary depending on kids’ ages and the views within each family. Take time to think and talk through what online safety will mean for your family. This helps make the most out of parental tools and helps your kids understand how specific boundaries fit into your larger family rules and values.
Use Parental Tools, Not Controls
Existing parental settings and applications are meant to provide protection, not control. Consider framing the applications and settings available to yourself and your family as a way to practice online safety rather than getting into power struggles with your kids. Just as we don’t consider having kids wear helmets to be an act of control, neither is utilizing the tools for online safety.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
We want our kids to come to us with even their biggest problems. Practice thanking your kid for sharing with you and consider the benefits and costs of consequences when they make mistakes. If you decide an online behavior warrants a consequence, consider something other than taking away the Internet or the device, which might make them less likely to come to you in the future.
Teach the Importance
Kids who understand the Internet and how to use it responsibly will be less likely to do something that they may regret in the future, and they are more likely to grow into adults that feel confident in their responsible use of the Internet.
Keeping kids safe online is an ongoing process. Applications, games, and social trends are ever-shifting, so meeting the current needs for safety must also be a flexible process. Remember that you do not have to know everything about every application to keep your family safe.
In online safety, there can be a dizzying array of concerns and potential solutions. The principles here are a foundation for you to build your Online Safety Toolkit.