As missing person experts here at Lauth Missing Persons, we know that each year that passes makes it increasingly important that we safeguard our children against threats that may lurk behind a screen, just as much as those out in the everyday world. With the internet opening the back door into their lives, parents must stay up to date on ways to protect children online.
Today’s children are more computer literate than any generation that came before them. Most toddlers master their parent’s smartphones with dizzying speed, and the Covid-19 pandemic certainly transformed devices into necessary portals for staying in touch with friends and continuing their education. Framed by the reality of modern life, how can parents allow their kids to enjoy the bounties of the digital era without exposure to the risks?
Set Parental Controls on Your Devices
There are a range of digital tools available to parents who want to protect their children online. Many web browsers and sites offer these services for free—for example Google’s SafeSearch. Content filters like SafeSearch prevent accidental discovery of violent or sexually explicit content online, while usage controls allow you to time-limit or prevent certain types of device-use. Parental monitoring tools help you keep an eye on which sites or apps your children access. While a variety of free tools can be harnessed, many parents take comfort in using paid parental control software, for an iron clad level of security.
Teach Your Children to Be “Share Aware”
Few children could have any frame of reference for how their sharing their information can put them in harm’s way. Details ranging from location information to photographs, email addresses, phone numbers, schools, and even private thoughts can each become a vulnerability in the wrong hands. As such, teaching your children to be “share aware” can help them danger in the future. Everything that goes out online is known as a “digital footprint”, and it’s difficult to know how far it will travel. If they wouldn’t share that information or image with a total stranger, then they should never post it online—even privately—and if they feel unsure, they can always ask you before they click.
Talk to Your Children About Who They Connect With Online
Parents always vet who their children spend time with in the real world, so it stands to reason that they do so online. Without the life experience to teach them otherwise, children can be naive about who they trust, and what they believe. An important part of protecting children online is discussing their digital social circles, and educating them on what constitutes bullying or unacceptable behavior. Teach your children to be social media savvy, including how to block unwanted contacts, and report inappropriate or offensive posts so that they can protect themselves and others.
Lead By Example and Keep the Dialogue Going
Modeling courteous, safety-conscious, and responsible online etiquette can influence your children more than you know. Be sure to set a good example, including limiting your own screen time. Encourage free conversation with your children about what they do online, and ask them to show you the different sites and apps that they enjoy. Keep screens and devices in shared spaces, or check in regularly when your child is using a device in another room. By making all things virtual a shared experience, you are far more likely to be the first call if your child ever feels unsafe online.
The missing person investigations team here at Lauth Missing Persons often encounter families who are facing their worst parental fears. To combat these moments, we encourage focusing on safety awareness from an early age, protecting children online, and staying informed about contemporary risks. If you have reason to doubt the safety of your child, the team at Lauth Missing Persons may be able to assist. Learn more about what we do, or contact us today.