Internet Safety for Minors
Internet Safety today is more important now than it has ever been. According the Pew Research Center, children today have almost unlimited access to electronic and mobile devices through phones, computers, tablets. It's increasingly important for parents to limit exposure to damaging and threatening content, but the task seems overwhelming at times. The rate of exposure to online bullying, predators, and pornographic content is only increasing, and that's not going to change without intervention. If you are concerned about the amount of time your child spends in front of a screen, you are not alone. PRC studies showed that 71% of parents of children under 12 are also concerned. The issue continues to grow and become more pressing now that much of our community involvement and education takes place through online devices.
For the youngest children it is best that they receive little to no screen time at all. The World Health Organization has released researched guidelines for internet usage and warns that children under 2 years old should receive NO screen time, and NO MORE than ONE hour of screen time for children between 3-4 years of age. They warn that too much is detrimental to cognitive development, language skills, and even motor skills. Because so much important development is taking place at these early ages, try alternative activities. W.H.O. recommends moderate to vigorous physical exercise which can include brisk walking, ball games, cycling, but also recommends sedentary time that does not include screens. This could include educational games, coloring, rest, reading, quiet time.
As kids get older screen time tends to increase and so do potential dangers and they go far beyond issues of development. These dangers include:
offering personal information inappropriately
falling for scams
exposure to pornographic material
Children do not have the ability to understand that others may seek to harm them; they often believe people, and may be groomed easily. They do not understand that once they do something online it can never be erased--it stays online forever. This applies to younger children, teens, and young adults. The brain is developing even into young-adulthood and it is important that parents take monitoring and education seriously.
The #1 thing we can do to protect our kids is to COMMUNICATE with them. Boundaries are important. Set reasonable boundaries for screen time and social media. Talk to your children about things like cyberbullying and online predators. Warn them not to share or receive photos of themselves with anyone online because that constitutes child pornography. If they have a relationship of trust with you, they are more likely to share if someone is asking them to do something inappropriate. Have conversations with them about social media and the apps they download. Know who they are talking to online. Watch out for dangerous apps. (The Sarasota County (Fla.) Sheriff's Department released these 15 mobile apps it claims are dangerous for children, in which they could encounter bullying or sexual predators.
Parental Control Apps
Fortunately there are some apps like Bark, Custodio, NetNanny, Kaspersky, and others that exist to help parents monitor the online activity of children. It's worth looking into and installing one of these types of software which can help you monitor time, track history, monitor content, and ultimately help protect your children.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT INTERNET SAFETY FOR MINORS, OR TO CONTACT SAVAC TO BRING A PRESENTATION FOR YOUR LOCAL SCHOOL, CHURCH, OR COMMUNITY GROUP, PLEASE CALL OUR OFFICE AT 706.861.0929.