When it comes to making sure kids stay safe online, parents already have a good model.
“Internet safety starts with having a conversation with your children about how they use the web and social media; you can draw parallels with the way you would ask them to exercise caution in the physical world with strangers,” Tom Gaffney, Principal Consultant at F-Secure, explained.
Asking kids where they’re going, who they’re hanging around, and what they’re up to remain typical aspects of parenting. Doing the same for their kids’ online activity is the key to helping kids operate safely online. And the good news is that most parents seem to get this, according to a Twitter poll we conducted on Safer Internet Day.
Parents and kids are talking
We found 3 of 4 parents had spoken to their kids about cyber threats or cyberbullying, with more than a third saying they did so “regularly.” Another 8% said they would discuss these threats if they knew how to do it.
Even though most parents today grew up with the web, they weren’t raised in a world where online and offline existence was almost impossible to separate.
Even many teenagers worry about how much of their life is spent staring at screen. Last year Pew found that 90% of teens, ages 13 to 17, said that spending too much time online is a problem for their age group. The truth is that by the time kids become teens– when they report to spend an average of 9 hours a day online – it is much more difficult to exert much control over a child’s online activity, especially without a history of conversations about online safety.
That’s why Tom recommends parents familiarize themselves with the guides on the site InternetMatters.org. That way they can feel confident about talking with their kids as soon as kids begin venturing outside simple games and apps.
Another area where parents seem to be doing well in our poll is passwords, with 7 in 10 parents reporting they’ve spoken to their kids about the importance of strong, unique passwords. And almost 6 in 10, 59%, do put some limits on their kids’ screen time.
But the conversations have to continue
From there, the poll results weren’t as promising.
Parents were split exactly in half when asked if they had ever spoken to their children about something that bothered that bothered them online. If you’re an adult, chances are you rarely making it through the day without coming across something disturbing on the Internet. So if your child hasn’t raised any issues about something he or she has seen online, this suggests s/he just isn’t talking to you about what s/he sees online.
Lastly, only 31% of parents reported using parental controls. This becomes more promising when you add in the 20% who say they’re planning to use the tools.
You may say we’re biased because F-Secure TOTAL includes our powerful Family Rules feature, which help parents set limits for kids online the way they do in the real world. But the truth is protecting your child online is much harder without a little technological help.
YouTube shows why building trust matters
Even if you don’t use parental controls, consider taking an active role in establishing the sites and apps that your child should be using. YouTube, in particular, is a site parents may want to monitor.
“When my kids were younger, I blocked access to YouTube on their devices and let them access it only when I was around,” Tom said. “I would watch with them and requested they didn’t go clicking on any links without showing it to me first.”
Thankfully, raising a kid in the virtual world isn’t much different than raising one in the real world. There are just way more options. You could say setting a kid free on YouTube is like setting her loose in a cinema multiplex. Except instead of a few new movies a week, 300 hours of video are added to YouTube every minute.
Keeping an eye on everything is impossible. But you can start the conversations about what to look out for. If you do it right, your kids will learn to keep those conversations going.