Kids these day are savvier when it comes to technology and the internet. So what can parents do to stay on top of their online activities and ensure that they don't end up in cyber danger?
Digital devices have made a giant leap in technology. We all know that smartphones have the power to perform myriad functions. They record and upload videos, take pictures and save or upload them, download and play games, use instant messaging apps, send and receive emails, and access the internet – phew. So, where do we even begin when it comes to tech and our kids?
The dangers of accessing the internet at an early age
It’s always tricky to decide when’s the right time to let your kids have their own devices and enter the online world. When you provide your kids with devices for their own use, you also give them the means to communicate with the outside world. Consequently, this opens the doors to the risks accompanying technology, such as cyberbullying, divulging personal information, access to adult content, and more.
In 2022, Google conducted a survey to understand parents’ concerns regarding their kids’ technology usage and online safety. Results show that since the pandemic, more than 60% of Singaporean parents have permitted increased screen time for the littles. Particularly, one in three children spends an average of three to six hours online daily. But it’s not all doom and gloom…
1. More parents are confident about online safety for kids
With more young users online, Singaporean parents have been responsibly keeping up with this uptick – 70% of them have had a conversation with their kids about online safety. This shows parents are open to starting conversations with their children on digital safety. This also suggests that online safety campaigns and initiatives, such as Digital for Life, can help parents be aware of online dangers.
2. Adults can be more proactive in safeguarding their children online
83% of parents felt confident that their offspring would approach them if they face any problems online. However, only 29% had proactively looked for information about online safety. This shows that there are still gaps to be filled and that parents should stay well-informed so they can have more meaningful conversations about digital safety as a family.
3. They still have concerns regarding online safety
Singaporean parents have found privacy and security, inappropriate content, and cyberbullying to be top concerns when it comes to online safety. They face challenges finding tools to monitor children’s online usage and age-appropriate online safety tips. 47% of surveyed parents find it moderately difficult (or more) to know or find the tools they need to help monitor and control their child’s online usage.
Online safety for kids: what parents can do
We all know our kids are super tech-savvy, being digital natives and all. This means parents may have a tough time keeping on top of their usage. Although your kids might out-tech you, you can still stay in the know. Here are some online safety tips to follow for both kids and parents.
1. Monitor their online gaming habits
Online gaming, such as Minecraft and Roblox, enables children to connect and play with people worldwide. This invites potential predators who see children as easy targets. A recent study reported over 40% of connected children between fourth and eighth grade admit to talking to strangers online.
Even with these threats, there are ways to ensure that young ones stay safe while online gaming. Make sure that all chat options are off, or at least off for anyone your kid doesn’t know personally. Remind your youngling to take advantage of the “block” feature and use it liberally for anyone who makes them feel even remotely uncomfortable.
2. Keep your kid’s data private
Data privacy is a growing concern, with major data breaches being constantly reported in the news. The United Nations reports over 80% of children will have a digital footprint before reaching the age of two years old. This raises concerns about what information parents are sharing about their children. Plus, kids are still learning about what information is okay to share and what’s private. Psst, even conversations between trusted friends or personal information stored on an online profile can be seen by the wrong people!
Teach your children that some information, such as their address or full name, should never be shared online. Set your kids’ online profiles to private so that they can be seen by approved viewers only. And parents, this one’s for you: when posting about your kids online, be mindful of who can see your posts and what their intentions could be.
3. Review your child’s account settings
On top of setting your child’s account to private, most social media networks also support the toggling of individual features or privacy settings. This allows you to make specific decisions on how your child can interact with the platform. For instance, you can disable direct messaging or set daily time limits for app usage on your child’s phone or tablet. It’s said that every child has at least one social media account, which can potentially expose sensitive information to a broad audience if the proper privacy settings aren’t configured.
4. Make sure your child can’t make any in-app or online payments
It’s also essential to make sure your kids can’t purchase anything on the apps and websites they engage with. Mobile games make it easy for users to purchase in-game currencies or cosmetics in a process known as a microtransaction. These transactions are made with just a few simple taps that even toddlers can accidentally activate. Ensure your payments are locked behind a password, pin code, or fingerprint. Or, payment methods are blocked entirely on apps your children may use.
5. Keep an open ear
While teaching online safety to kids minimises potential threats they may face, it’s still critical to equip them with knowledge on how to enjoy online activities safely and privately on their own. The most important tip is to have an open and honest conversation with your kids. Let them know that they can always talk to you about anything they see or experience online, without having to worry about negative consequences. Be there for your child if they face cyberbullying.
We hope these online safety tips are useful for you and your kids!