We recently asked Followers of our Safe Social Media for Kids Facebook page to tell us what worries them the most, when it comes to keeping their kids safe online. The survey found respondents were most concerned about protecting their children from the risks of viewing adult content.
Thanks again to everyone who took part in our survey.
Today, we’re blogging tips that will help you minimse risks for your children.
Parents are only human
Before we delve into the practical stuff, we think it’s worth mentioning that keeping your child 100% safe from every risk online is virtually impossible.
Like most kids under 13, your child is likely to spend time out of your care, at sleepovers, play dates or even with a babysitter.
With this in mind, even the most vigilant parent in the world will have trouble keeping tabs on their child’s online activity 100% of the time.
This is why we have also included information on what to do if your child does happen to view adult content. Knowing how to handle these situations is just as important as working to prevent them.
Tips for prevention
When it comes to strategies for keeping your child safe online, it’s important to choose methods that match your parenting style, and your child’s habits.
There is a lot of advice relating to keeping kids safe online, which is why we always recommend choosing the methods that work for your family, and your child.
The tips below are based on feedback from social media experts and parents we have interviewed over the past 12 months.
Using this information, we’ve compiled the most useful tips for you, our readers.
Supervision is king
Having a sound supervision strategy for your children is the best way to minimise the risk of exposing them to harmful adult content online.
Yes, there are a number of monitoring programs out there, but we have found that the most effective strategy is simply keeping your eyes on your child (especially when they are under 13).
- Keep track of devices in your home. If you have multiple portable devices, ensure they are password encrypted so your child cannot access them without you.
- When your child does use a device, make them use it in a common living area, such as the living room or dining area. That way you can easily see what they’re accessing.
- To make supervision easier, allow a specific period time for your child per day. This could be after school, once all chores and homework is done. That way you can put this time aside to have a cup of coffee and catch up on your reading or social media, while you keep an eye on them.
- Use an egg timer or even an old-fashioned sand timer so your child knows how long they have online. Here are some guidelines to consider.
|Age of child||Screen* recommendation|
|18 months or younger||Avoid screens, unless video chatting with relatives or other family friends.*|
|18 to 24 months.||Only if you find quality content to watch with your child, or in the case of games, make sure you are playing the game with them.*|
|2 to 5 years||1 hour per day.**|
|5 to 13 years||2 hours per day.***|
* Includes computers, TV and any device with a screen.
- Consider creating a rewards program for your child. This could mean swapping chores or homework for screen time. For example, 5 chores equates to 10 minutes of screen time. A chore chart is a good way to keep track of this, and you can weight each chore based on what you think it is worth.
What happens if my child does see adult content online?
Elizabeth Schroeder, Executive Director of the a sex education organisation at Rutgers University in the US told the New York Times:
“Your child is going to look at porn at some point. It’s inevitable.”
If your child does stumble on adult content, or if they do happen to search for it, opening channels of communication is the most important first step. Ask them how they discovered the content.
If they searched for it through curiousity, take the time ask them why. It may be that your child is curious about sexual reproduction. There is no set age for the birds and the bees talk, and thanks to the Internet, this is happening sooner and sooner for parents and kids today.
It is important not to shame your child for looking at adult content. Explain that it is normal to be curious about sex, but be sure to highlight that pornography does not represent relationships in the ‘real’ world.
For real life case studies about how parents have dealt with talking to their kids about looking at adult content, visit this great piece by the New York Times.
Find out more
For more tips on keeping your kids safe online, please visit our blog again. We also have a Facebook community, where you can connect with other parents and learn more about parenting in the fast-paced digital world we now live in.