Did you know that 59% of teenagers report that they have been victims of cyberbullying? (Pew Research). Though the rise of technology has brought many great things, unfortunately, it also has a very dark and ugly side. The internet can expose kids to “haters” behind the screen, impacting their mental health.
February 6 is Safer Internet Day, and there’s a nonprofit focused on helping kids and parents feel empowered to create a more positive and inclusive online world. Suicide Watch and Wellness Foundation and its co-founder, Misha McK, shared twelve tips with us for how parents can practice safer internet usage to protect their children from harm.
Kindergarten -3rd Grade: Use Parental Controls
Use a parental control app to program the internet so the child can only watch what you have approved.
4th-7th Grade: Monitor Internet Usage
McK suggests only allowing up to a half hour per day outside of homework use. Parents can give kids options for usage such as:
- 5 minutes, six times
- 10 minutes, three times
Utilize Privacy Settings for Social Media.
This will lessen exposure from unwanted followers and protect your child from someone hacking into their computer.
Check-in on Their Activities
Integrate online activities so you can monitor and check in on what your child is watching and who they are communicating with online.
Make Use of Passwords
Consider setting the password on the child’s device and not disclosing it to them, this way they can only get online by asking your permission.
Talk About It
Keep an open dialogue with your children about bullying, harassment, intimidation, and falsehoods that are on the internet. Help them learn how to be media savvy so they can spot dangers.
Be a Role Model for Your Child
Manage your online usage in front of them so you are not giving them the perception of “Do as I say, not as I do” behavior.
Let Them Know Who to Talk To
Instruct your child to only chat with friends they know. Meeting people online can be dangerous and lead to disappointment, anxiety and confusion between right and wrong.
Show Them How to Block People
Make sure your child understands that if a stranger tries to chat with them privately online, they should block them immediately.
Check Social Media
Parents should periodically check their child’s social media pages for content and engagement and discuss posts that are questionable.
Investigate Before They Download Games and Apps
Investigate all games, apps, and social media platforms before you allow your tween or teens to download them. Apps and sites that feature end-to-end encryption, direct messaging, video chats, file uploads, and user anonymity are frequently relied upon by online child predators.
Maintain Open Communication
And finally, parents must encourage their children to always tell them if there is something online they have seen or heard that made them feel uncomfortable. Keep those lines of communication open, ALWAYS!
Misha Mck is the co-founder of Suicide Watch and Wellness Program, and aims to prevent suicide and create mental health awareness to ensure the world is eradicated from suicide, and families no longer suffer the loss of their beloved through it.