“Be careful, Linda. You could fall from there.”
“Watch out for cars as you cross the road, Bobby.”
“You shouldn’t play with that, Brian. It could hurt you.”
As a parent, you may say these things often. As children are young and inexperienced in the ways of life, they don’t see the harm in some things, things that could potentially hurt them. They depend on parents to keep them safe until they grow and learn how to handle things on their own. As a parent who loves their child, you want to do everything you possibly can to keep them safe from all physical harm. But what about psychological harm? The human mind is just as important as the human body, and far more susceptible to damage that could have deadly effects far into the child’s lifetime. Adults are often aware of the many terrible things that can happen in this world and don’t want their children exposed to them before they can handle it. What if your child can see images of war zones? Of people overdosing on hard drugs or alcohol? Of adult content not meant for young eyes? What if your child could be contacted by a potential predator, looking to exploit them? In the days of the internet and social media, all these scenarios are, unfortunately, possible. Many times, parents may let their children on the internet, thinking they are safe on certain sites or games. But they are not. Unhealthy or adult content is becoming more and more accessible and easier to come across, meaning more and more people can see it, including children. Because of this possibility, parents need to be more aware of the internet.
If you plan to let your child out on the internet, the best scenario would be to monitor them and their actions, knowing where they are and when. For many parents, this option may not be even close to possible. Between job hours, school functions, and often more than one child, parents’ tight schedules may prevent them from always being able to monitor in person. Thankfully, more than just parents have taken notice of the potential danger and have taken steps to help those who cannot always be there. Now, many phones, tablets, computers, and game consoles have been equipped with parental controls to protect children from dangerous content. For Android, iPhone, and tablet users, their devices receive apps, with computers and game consoles receiving software for parents to set up. These parental controls are there to help keep your children safe online when parents can’t monitor in person. These allow parents to block harmful websites and other harmful content whenever it is detected, including online chats and pop-ups. Websites themselves have also gained features like this, such as YouTube. The set-up and controls on all these parental controls are designed to be easy to use, understandable, and password-protected, so no unauthorized changes can be made without a parents’ knowledge. Many of these also can help monitor children’s playtime hours and what they are playing, so parents can also be aware of the content their children are using and for how long. This can also help combat video game addiction, a problem many children are facing in the electronic era of the modern-day.
It is also very important to talk to your children about the internet as well. Though the parental control programs keep out the most dangerous content, they cannot keep all questionable material out. Some things may still be glimpsed by young minds that should not see them yet. Perhaps some parents do not want to install any parental controls but wish to talk to their children about internet safety. Whether you choose to utilize the controls or not, you should still let your children know about some of the dangers they could still come across, such as cyberbullying, a major problem affecting children today. Tell them what they should do in case they are contacted by someone they do not know, or if someone should ask for personal information, including their addresses or perhaps even photographs of themselves. They may hear about things in school or could potentially react under peer pressure to do or look for things they shouldn’t be. You should also talk to them about those issues to make sure they are not influenced wrongly or into making a mistake that could harm them in the long run. By talking to your child and teaching them internet safety, they can be aware of when something potentially harmful may come their way and stay safe from potential threats.
You may say, “Why should I monitor my child’s internet usage? My child wouldn’t go searching for things they shouldn’t be.” This statement may be true, but the danger still exists regardless of whether they search for things or not. In 2015, Kaspersky Lab conducted a study of threats encountered by parental control units on their products. Over half of all programs in use encountered and blocked adult content, including pornography. A quarter of users were prevented from accessing sites devoted to online gambling, and every fifth user encountered sites with weapons or extremely strong language. The study also states that the parental controls were triggered an average of 127 times per year, and the numbers were consistent around the world, with Germany, Russia, the United States, China, and the UK being the places the programs were triggered the most.
In conclusion, parents are the number one defense for their child’s internet safety. When you believe your child is unprepared to face many of these potential dangers, their protection always will begin at the very beginning, you, the parent. Talk to your children about internet safety. Teach them to be careful and what to avoid. Install and utilize the parental controls whenever they are available, protecting them when you are unavailable to monitor personally. When the children have grown up and become adults, you will be glad to know that they were protected at their young age from the dark places of the internet.