Mobile device safety is more crucial now than ever. Apart from the fact that more information is available to children nowadays, the threats within the online world continue to multiply, putting children at risk.
When it first became available in 1991, the Internet transformed the way we interact and the addition of mobile technology allowed the Internet to permeate our daily lives. There is no turning back on digital technology’s effects on education, business and every other area of our daily lives.
Over the years, exponential progress has been made to boost the connectivity that Internet and mobile technology together can provide better.
Since it’s easy to connect to the digital world these days, this generation consumes more data than ever.
As a result, we live in a highly mobile society, where almost 67% of the population is actively using mobile devices. More devices are available today to children of all ages, from smartphones and tablets to computers and other connected devices.
The use of gadgets in families is becoming more prevalent in this digital age. Parents need to implement reasonable and age-appropriate control and accountability when it comes to gadget use by minors under their care.
It’s even more pressing now because most children are doing distance learning in the new normal because of the pandemic.
Kids-Safe Internet and Mobile Use
Internet safety is awareness of the risks following Internet activities and use of several effective measures against cyber threats. Due to the growing number of mobile phone users, the Internet safety includes desktop devices and mobile devices such as smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and the like.
Cybersecurity, online security, the Internet protection, or e-safety aims to protect users from dangers such as malware attacks, virus infections, phishing attacks, data breaches, identity theft, etc.
For children, this includes exposure to adult content and harmful sites or apps.
Why is Safety Crucial in the Internet and Mobile Device Use?
Our homes are now accessible through the Internet.
Surprisingly, some parents will go to great lengths to physically shield their children from threats but will remain unconcerned with tracking their children’s Internet behavior.
We teach our children not to talk to strangers, but some of us let them surf the Internet—the vast world of strangers—without adult oversight. In some parents’ opinion, a new mobile device they give to their child cannot do any damage because it’s just a gadget. But that is not the case anymore as the mobile device you give your children is a portal into their lives.
The Center for Cyber Safety and Education published the “Children’s Internet Usage Study” in 2016, which detailed how 4th to 8th graders in America use the Internet.
What they discovered was that children are constantly engaging with strangers on the Internet.
These statistics show the following alarming realities:
- 29% of minors use the Internet in ways that their parents would disapprove.
- 21% of minors go to websites where they can communicate with strangers.
- 17% of minors visit pages with pornographic or adult photos or videos
- 11% go to websites to learn how to cheat on classwork.
- 4% go on gambling websites.
Teaching children how to use the Internet responsibly keeps them safe from scams and safeguards their mental and physical health.
For instance, children are not allowed to give up sensitive information just to play games. It is a significant development in child safety guidelines for the Internet and mobile phone use. However, these laws are constantly broken in the online world, so practicing information security when going online is still a safer approach to privacy.
Parents and supervising adults must not rely solely on cybersecurity protocols from mobile apps and websites. Cybersecurity must be everybody’s business, more so with adults that are accountable for children’s welfare.
Here is a video showing why internet safety must be taught to children.
Mobile Device Kids-Safety Tips that Parents Should Practice
Talk openly with your child about their online activity.
It is also challenging to establish rules if you are not present at some level to supervise. Kids spell love as T-I-M-E, so it is crucial to let them know you care for them and are interested in what they are doing.
Set time for your children where you can give them your undivided attention. If possible, log off from all your devices when spending quality time with them. If you set the example for them that fun doesn’t have to come from mobile, online games, and Internet use, they will eventually catch on to the example you set.
Do not communicate only to correct, as this will drive them to despise our correction. Let the children see that you are interested even in the value they get from their Internet and mobile device usage. Talk to them about the trends and threats to cybersecurity, or maybe mobile app development trends that directly affect them. Incorporate digital safety in day-to-day conversations, most notably when you start to establish your family’s culture regarding Internet and mobile device safety.
Slowly but surely, this digital safety awareness will grow naturally with your children. They may even surprise you when they develop their smart ideals regarding this concern and find ways to protect themselves online even without your prompting.
Set and stick to boundaries from the start.
Boundaries are essential for children. Boundaries are the guidelines, limits, and rules we identify for our children to keep them safe. It includes reasonable and permissible activities and behaviors for them, including mobile device usage. Boundaries are good to establish accountability and responsibility at an early age.
According to child experts, having reasonable limits set by their parents helps children feel safer. Sure, kids will sometimes push certain limits, but when you hold to what was decided upon initially, they realize you are serious. It instills in them a more profound sense of trust and security.
When educating younger children, be as imaginative and sensory as possible – you may use catchy music, animation, role-playing and other similar techniques.
The rules must be easy-to-remember and straightforward, especially when they are still young. When your children grow older and more mature, you will choose to add additional ground rules or elaborate on the specifics of these rules.
Check this sample list to help you decide what rules to follow for your children – the list can be customized and printed to meet the needs of your family.
Pre-set Rewards and Consequences.
Along with clarifying boundaries to your children, you also need to let them know about rewards and consequences of following or breaking the rules regarding gadget use. It needs to be clear to your minors that their decisions can either bring them benefits or consequences.
They will always try to break your rules if crossing boundaries has no actual repercussion for them. Incentives should also be used to encourage healthy behavior. Keep in mind that kids feel safer when ground rules aren’t changed on the spur of the moment.
If you are offering a reward or imposing a consequence, you must explain that a reward or a consequence is about what they did, not who they are. No matter if your children behaved well or not, your positive acceptance of who they are should remain unchanged. Their actions, on the other hand, have consequences attached to them, whether good or bad.
Empower your kids by making them know that they will influence the result by making wise decisions. It is how you train kids to use tech responsibly.
Owning a Mobile Device Is a Privilege
Parental duties, besides others, also include monitoring the children’s internet and mobile device use.
Mobile devices cannot be used as personal property by children as it is a privilege rather than a right – children must learn to use it wisely, be open and responsible.
Let them know that a part of this accountability system you are establishing is the need to audit their mobile devices and computers as the need arises.
You can download several kinds of apps that can reasonably monitor your children’s digital activities whenever browsing questionable sites or downloading inappropriate apps or content.
Be sure that they understand that, like with any privilege, misusing or abusing it will result in losing their right to enjoy it.
Observe Age-appropriateness for the Internet and Mobile Device Use.
Before purchasing a gadget for your child, get the latest reviews by child experts and investigate what age and duration are appropriate for children to begin using a mobile device.
Kids under the age of six are not recommended to use their own mobile device quite yet. For younger children, screen time should be limited to 30 minutes or less, while for older children, it should be limited to less than an hour.
You should check which apps and games have been classified as kid-friendly by experts. Provide your children with a list of pre-approved websites, apps, and other resources from which to select. Older children and teenagers must ask for permission before communicating or providing their details with others online.
Here’s a helpful video on the dos and don’ts of giving your kids their first mobile phone:
Teach Kids to Protect Sensitive Information.
Even if younger, teach your children how to protect their identity online. Identify which family and personal information they should NEVER provide in sites and apps they use, so they develop perception regarding identity protection.
Furthermore, show them the risks of exposing too much information about themselves – they may open themselves to actual risks if they expose their location online, or reveal that they are alone at home, or the places they visit in real-time.
Together with your children, open their social media accounts etc. and make it a rule that while they are minors, they will not have public accounts that are NOT accessible to you, so you can help them ward off attackers that lurk on unsupervised minors online.
Keep Gadgets in a Common, Unlocked Area.
Establish Internet and mobile devices use schedules at home and ensure periods or home areas that should be gadget-free, like during family meals or at the bedroom. It is a safety measure that teaches children to separate from their mobile phones when it is time to rest or do other essential things. Avoid allowing the mobile device to be a default for your children, meaning they always reach for it when they don’t know what else to do.
If you are imposing such a rule, it is best to practice it yourself. Logging off is not such a bad thing, especially when it is time to rest at night. Show your child that you can separate your free time from your online time and it will follow your example.
Switch off connections at night. Although it might not be a choice in some intelligent homes, designating all connected devices in common areas and establishing a time for gadget use is a fast way to teach your kids Internet discipline.
Know Your Parental Controls
You should learn how to use parental controls that browsers and devices offer if you don’t want to expose your child to harmful information.
For example, as in the SafeSearch Filter option on Google, pages containing pornographic content would be hidden. Switch it on by going to Settings > Filters and choose Expand. Unfortunately, parental filters would more likely be able to block your child from witnessing violence and/accessing pornographic content to a degree of accuracy.
See Parental Controls & Privacy Settings Guides. When you purchase security software and features, you cover your expenses and increase your profit margin on security.
Know Your Children’s Online Friends
Follow and befriend your child on their social media accounts. Your children may cringe at the thought, but it makes sense to have discerning adults protecting them online when they are still minors. Don’t cross the line, though, like embarrassing your kids online but be on constant alert. Lurkers need to be aware that an adult is protecting the child’s online activity.
Even in real life, criminals get discouraged from invading a home when a parent is present. The same goes for online. Attackers recognize the kids whose parents do not have a significant influence in their lives, and they swoop in to fill that void by bearing gifts that can entice your kids.
Get to know the friends they have online. Monitor friend requests and discourage them from befriending people they don’t know personally. Being extra cautious helps spare your children from online users who want to inflict harm on children left unsupervised with their mobile device.
Encourage “Think Before You Post” Policy
Teach your children proper online etiquette that can guide them as they post content online. Show them what kind of content is safe and how not to reveal your family’s whereabouts.
Moreover, teach them how to turn off location tags on their pictures and be careful when “signing in” to events, locations, and the like. Teach your children to keep their location private.
As a parent, avoid sharing your children’s sensitive pictures and videos. What may look so cute and harmless can be enticing for online lurkers. Keep control of your family’s digital footprint at all times.
Any piece of personal information we put online is irretrievable and becomes a part of our digital identity, which may lead to issues in the future. Since youngsters and children are easily swayed, they must be given more online protection and made aware of their own privacy.
YOU are the person to instill a culture of cyber safety and healthy mobile device use in your household. Children can follow more closely what they see more than what you tell them to do. You should connect the words to concrete actions so that the concepts you teach become tangible to them.
Whatever rules you choose, you must be prepared to follow them.
At the end, who we are online is a reflection of who we are in real life.
Hopefully, we would bring more meaning to society even through using mobile devices responsibly. After all, all great things begin with simple steps.