In today's digital age, children are increasingly exposed to the online world. While the Internet provides numerous educational resources and opportunities for social interaction, it also presents potential risks and dangers.
In this article, we’ll discuss the concept of monitoring your child’s online activities and provide some helpful tips on how to allow them freedom within clear safety parameters.
Should Parents Monitor Their Children’s Online Activities?
Out of the fear of the risk that access to technology and the Internet offer, the question of whether parents should monitor their children's online activities has become a topic of debate.
Some argue that it’s essential for parents to actively monitor their children's online interactions to protect them from potential dangers. Others believe that monitoring can infringe upon a child's privacy and hinder their ability to develop independence and responsible online behaviour.
Ultimately whether or not you should monitor your child’s online activities and behaviour is up to you as the parent and your personal beliefs.
Perhaps your motivation stems from wanting to protect your child from online predators or maybe you want to limit their exposure to certain types of content until they have reached a certain age.
What is clear, is that parents should educate their children about online safety, age-appropriate behaviour, and the dangers that lie on the Internet and consequenes of consuming certain content.
Teach Your Child About Internet Safety
Teaching your child about Internet safety is a crucial step in helping them navigate the online world responsibly. By providing them with the knowledge and tools to protect themselves, you can empower them to make informed decisions and stay safe online. Here are some tips on how to teach your child about Internet safety:
- Start guiding them at a young age: we suggest introducing your child to Internet safety from a young age. Of course, not all topics will be relevant from the beginning, but it’s possible to start the educational process and explore more concepts as they age.
- Create an open line of communication: it’s important to create an environment where your child feels comfortable discussing their online experiences and concerns. Encourage them to come to you with any questions or problems they may encounter.
- Explain online privacy: explain the importance of your child protecting their personal information online. Make clear to them that they should never share their full name, address, phone number, or any other sensitive details without your permission.
- Teach them about strangers online: discuss the concept of strangers in the online world. Help your child understand that not everyone they encounter online can be trusted. Encourage them to only communicate with people they know in real life and to inform you if they receive any suspicious or uncomfortable messages.
- Discuss using social media safely: it’s important to educate your child on the potential dangers of social media and what responsible behaviour is on these platforms. Be sure to include the importance of not accepting friend requests from strangers and the potential consequences of sharing personal information or inappropriate content with an unknown audience.
- Focus on cyberbullying awareness: explain to your child what cyberbullying is and how to recognise and respond to it. Teach them to be kind and respectful online and that they should report any instances of bullying they notice.
- Encourage critical thinking skills: it’s important to encourage your child to think critically by questioning whether the content they are seeing and sharing is appropriate. This can span from fake news to indecent content and even by clicking on unfamiliar links.
- Set appropriate boundaries: it’ll be valuable to establish clear rules and boundaries regarding Internet use, including time limits and appropriate websites or applications. If you prefer, you can monitor their online activities and gradually grant them more independence as they demonstrate responsible behaviour.
What Should the Average Screen Time for Teens Be?
As your child grows up and enters adolescence, they’ll begin to use the Internet, social, media, streaming apps, and other screen-based activities recreationally. The question is how much recreational screen time they should be engaging in on a daily basis.
The recommended amount of recreational screen time is two hours per day. It’s, therefore, important to make this limit clear to your child and find a way to enforce this rule and encourage other recreational activities.
The effects of too much screen time can be disturbed sleep, a lack of energy, struggling to focus, and in some cases higher levels of depression and anxiety.
How to Monitor Your Child Online
If you do want to monitor your child’s online activity there are a number of ways to do this.
Check Their Digital Communications
Your child is bound to have access to digital communication apps and features. Whether it’s WhatsApp, Discord, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, or another online platform, your child will be communicating with their friends.
You can create a rule to check your child’s phone and laptop weekly. If they are engaging in appropriate topics of conversation, there should be no issue with this.
However, you should keep in mind that this can become a breach of privacy. Your child might discuss a sensitive topic with a friend and might not want their friend’s private conversations to be shared with you.
Monitor Social Media
It can be beneficial to check which accounts your child is following, who is following them, and who is commenting on their posts and reaching out to them. While you have already discussed the topic of strangers, children are still impressionable and might fall prey to strangers with bad intentions.
It’s also useful to check on what they are posting. If you notice something that is inappropriate or does not align with your values, open a dialogue with your child to calmly discuss why the post is problematic.
Check Their Search History
Checking your child’s search history on their browser will allow you to get some insight into what websites they are visiting. Once again, which websites they are visiting and content they are consuming, and whether these aligns with your boundaries and values is completely up to you as the parent.
If your child is clearing their browsing history, it could be an indication that they are visiting websites with which you do not agree.
Limit Their Streaming Capability
Whether your child is watching movies and series on Netflix, Disney+, or any other streaming service, there might be content of which you do not approve. There are certain settings that you can apply that’ll limit them from watching certain shows and movies.
It can be beneficial to create a rule where they are only allowed to watch TV in public spaces within the home, such as the lounge. If you do decide to do this it’s important to allow them time and space to watch their preferred series and movies. If you do not, they might feel as if they don't have any freedom or opportunity to enjoy shows that interest them.
Research Their Games
Many children enjoy games and this is perfectly acceptable and normal. However, you might be worried about the type of content they are being exposed to while playing games. To ensure the games they are playing agree with your views on what is appropriate, research the games they want to buy and play.
Therefore, before they purchase and play a game, watch reviews, read articles, and try to find clips of live gameplay. You can then either agree or disagree with their purchase.
The decision to monitor a child's online activities is a complex one that requires a thoughtful balance between safety and privacy. While monitoring can help protect children from potential risks, it’s crucial to respect their privacy and foster independence. Open communication, education, and trust-building should be at the core of a healthy approach to navigating the online world.
Ultimately, each family must find the approach that best aligns with their values and the needs of their children.