Free Tools & Strategies to Protect Your Kids When Gaming or Browsing Online
In an age where digital entertainment and online resources are an ever-present part of our student’s lives, it is also important to be prepared with a simple toolbox of tools and guidance to help you not only manage the screen time of students but also their vulnerability to online threats and inappropriate content. I have identified a few simple suggestions and resources which I use in my own home that I think will be helpful to you as well.
Charge & Use Gaming Computers, Laptops, and Chromebooks In Central Locations
Children who are using devices should never be allowed to isolate themselves in their own rooms or have too much control over their own access to the devices. Keeping devices in central locations like living room tables, kitchen counters reduces the likelihood of responding to an inappropriate online chat request or visiting inappropriate sites. It is also an opportunity to start a conversation with them around how and what they use the device for and develop positive and regulated work habits with digital technology. Consider dedicated on and off times for devices and charge devices in an open area or parents’ bedroom. Always ask your children who they chat with online and create a dialogue at an early age.
Review Policies of Apps & Resources
Talk with your child about the age-appropriateness and content found on specific apps like Instagram, Tik-Tok, and Snap Chat. All of these social media apps have an age requirement of 13 and above. These restrictions are part of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) enacted in 1998 ( https://icac.scag.gov/age-child-use-social-media/). Be sure to monitor devices you have provided your child for social media accounts that may have been created without your knowledge.
Discuss Creating Safe Passwords
Discuss with your children the value of their personal identity when creating a username and good password. Safe passwords reduce the chances of hacked accounts and online security concerns. Be sure passwords have as many numbers and symbol characters as possible and do not include common words or keyboard sequences of characters. Try to have passwords be as unique as possible between different sites.
To review your own or your child’s password which uses a Google Account visit the tool http://passwords.google.com and do a review of the strength and security of all of your passwords using a specific Gmail address.
Create Schedules For Devices In Your Home
Both Verizon and Xfinity have parental control apps that support controls for managing app usage, device connectivity schedules, and restricting access to specific sites. I personally create child profiles and monitor the dedicated time on a specific app or restrict usage past a specific time. Use the links included to begin investigating the tools and try to use them to manage your child’s connection to your home network. I would add that the benefit of these tools beyond managing your child’s devices is that they assist in helping you to perform your own network analysis of the devices, usage, and network security and connection speeds. The links below are the links for Xfinity and Verizon parent controls.
Review the Appropriateness of Movies and Digital Resources Together
Use the request of a movie or digital resource from your children as an opportunity to use www.commonsensemedia.org to review the age and content appropriateness together. This website which also has an app is an amazing way to quickly review the age-appropriateness and content present in movies and digital resources. This site will assist with starting a dialogue on what types of content is appropriate for your children’s age and allow you to make decisions together and develop a method for reviewing content they request in a way that you can both understand.
All of these resources, tools, and strategies require creating a sustained dialogue with children on their choices and habits with using technology independently. It also requires a commitment to discussing appropriate resources regularly and monitoring your child’s behavior online consistently. No one tool or resource will fully protect your child and you need to be proactive to understand how they use technology for social connection and entertainment. Develop a plan for managing the devices in your home and have regular conversations with children about the sites they visit, the resources they use, and who they connect with online.