Even though a vast majority of the parents today are millennials—the first ones to use the internet and social media—there is a stark difference in how they and their children use and interact on social media apps. Parents are still grasping the idea of how to manage their children’s interaction with social media. And although parenting is tough and frustrating at times, the last couple of years have given new worries and troubles to parents in terms of their kids’ online safety. Now, apart from ensuring that your kids are safe, parents had the additional responsibility to prevent kids from the myriad of dangers the internet houses. These dangers include cyberbullying, loss of privacy, interaction with cyber predators, and online scams.
Cyberbullying is particularly common and causes long-term mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Similarly, excessive use of digital devices can lead to sleep problems, unhealthy diet, and addiction problems. As a secondary consequence, the child may develop development problems and poor ability to socialize. These are very serious threats that can greatly affect a child’s psycho-social development. Increased use of digital technologies does not help either.
For example, by the time babies turn two, 81% of the toddlers already have an online presence. Every Gen Zer uses the internet for an hour, at least. And the screen time has increased considerably since the world went into isolation due to COVID-19, leading to growing concern among the parents.
Is abandoning technology the solution? No. But, when it comes down to it, what we can do is alter the parenting methods and switch to digital parenting methods. Before we see what can be done to make sure that your child is safe online, let’s take a quick look at the advantages offered by the digital age, and how important it is for youngsters.
Importance of smartphone and internet technologies
As we have previously discussed, most children and adolescents nowadays have some form of digital presence. This is because of their needs for entertainment, socializing, communication, and learning are all done online. Schools and universities offer online courses, social media/instant messaging platforms are relied upon for socializing, and outlets such as Netflix or YouTube are used for entertainment. This means that smartphones and the internet are now an integral part of your child’s identity and daily life. The upcoming generation is the most connected and digitized generation in history. Taking away these technologies from them can lead to a different set of equally dangerous problems. The trick, therefore, is to make sure that you are able to establish oversight into your child’s digital life and promote healthier use of technology.
How to ensure your children’s safety?
Have a discussion regarding technology with your kids
Parents should start early and begin to teach their children when they are toddlers. Start by telling them that they need your permission first before touching any gadgets. We are living in such times that talking about technology and safe internet behavior is as important as having the birds and bees talk with your kids. By the time they become avid users of smartphones, be specific in terms of boundaries and acceptable behavior. Tell them why they should act responsibly and safely on the internet. Educate them about the various threats and dangers out there.
Most parents are familiar with Facebook but have no idea about Instagram. Instagram has a public setting by default, and unless you switch your account settings from public to private, anyone can view your pictures and or steal them to impersonate you. If your teen has a habit of uploading check-ins wherever they go, it becomes rather easy for a stalker to know about your teen’s whereabouts. Be an involved parent.
Establish rules for both real and virtual environments
As said earlier, the digital threats are abundant. Due to this, you have to implement rules for your teen’s safety the same way as you would in real-life. You have to treat the virtual environments the same way as real life. You would not allow your kid to talk to a stranger, tell them personal stuff, or invite them to your home, right? Similarly, they should be careful in talking to people online and NOT share personal details. There are sexual predators, groomers, stalkers, and pedophiles out there, and one can never be too careful. Make an effort to know your child’s real-life and online friends.
Maintain a balance between using screens and real-life activities. Establish rules and the consequences of not following them. Be consistent in enforcing the punishments. It could be limiting screen time, helping out with house chores, or any other activity that does not involve screens.
Using child monitoring apps
You can use child monitoring apps that effectively let you monitor your kid’s phones. Everyone has a smartphone nowadays, and you can know a lot about a person and what they do in real and digital life via their phones. Since you bought your kids their first smartphones, it is within your parental authority to monitor their digital footprints and their activities in general, until they grow up and become responsible.
Remember to give privacy too
This is an important factor that many parents end up overlooking in their quest to make sure that their child is safe. However, your child needs personal space, autonomy, and privacy to develop self-confidence and a well-rounded personality. This is why you must be willing to give them space where they demand it. The rules that you create and the communication channels you establish will go a long way in making sure that the circumstances remain balanced. In short, their need for privacy will stay protected while you monitor areas from where there is a major threat. Make sure you take your child’s input on this matter, as monitoring them without their knowledge can erode trust. Your children should ideally feel comfortable enough that they can discuss important matters with you.
Now that we have discussed these issues, the question is which parental monitoring app is right for you?
First of all, make sure that the app your purchase is affordable in the long-run. Some apps do not cost as much; however, costs for additional features and long-term subscriptions can reach hundreds of dollars per device. This is unsustainable, not to mention a waste of money. Opt for an app that offers a better long-term value for money. Apps like XNSPY let you turn on and off features anytime so that you have the right mix of permissions and the right balance of privacy vs freedom for your family at any time. Others may offer one-time purchase options, which may appear better value, do be aware that new versions of Android and iOS are released at least every year, so you will need keep on top of regular updates.