Technology has come a long way from many parent’s childhoods. While we may remember when our household purchased their first computer, our children have been surrounded by the internet since their births. While the information is invaluable, it also carries a lot of risks for the youngest and most impressionable minds.
Learning how to protect our children while allowing them to benefit from the vast knowledge available online can seem daunting, but it’s not impossible. If a parent has a basic knowledge of how the internet works, they can install safeguards to protect the innocent minds of their children from exposure to some of the more unsavory images available online. This post will cover the danger, and help parents learn about safeguards.
First, let’s cover the actual danger. Many parents assume their child won’t even know what to look for, or that if they supervise all of their internet use their child will be protected from exposure to porn, sexual images, or even contact from predators. This is a dangerous fallacy of thought as statistics show that even the responsible parent households aren’t preventing their children from accessing explicit material online.
As published by the Novus Project, 90 percent of young men have been exposed to pornography online by the age of 18, with a mean age of exposure before 11 years old. 60 percent of young women have been exposed to pornography or graphic sexual imagery online by the age of 18. They state that the exposure wasn’t always the result of a search and it has happened accidentally via pop-ups and other internet sources.
Far more concerning is the statistic that 71 percent of teens hide their online habits from their parents through either deleting browsing history, using a private browser that doesn’t track their search history, or other means. Alarmingly, 90 percent of the children aged 8 to 16 surveyed say that they have viewed pornography or graphic sexual material while doing their homework.
These statistics are frightening for parents to read. When much of their children’s homework and study depends on internet usage, they feel lost on how to help their children experience a safer internet and limit the potential exposure. We have developed a list to help parents protect their children while they utilize the digital resources available to them.
- Parental controls- be sure to set parental controls on all devices your child has, including cell phones, that can access a web browser. For Google, go to settings > safe search. Each browser should have this option under settings.
- Use your family safety tools that are in the computer. Windows and Mac systems provide a variety of family settings under their settings tabs.
- Purchase an app. There are many apps that can filter what information is delivered to your browser and give you the control to block content you deem inappropriate.
- Purchase a family safe app that allows parents control over the cell phone their child uses. Not only will you be able to view what your child is using the internet for, you may be able to disable the ability to access the web between specific hours. For example, from bedtime to morning, your child won’t be able to surf the web.
- Disable private browsing. A quick search can give you instruction on how to disable the private browsing feature on whatever browser you’ve installed.
- Block pop-ups. Many sites have misleading URL’s designed to encourage clicks. Once your child clicks the link, the page is designed to supply pop-ups of explicit pornography.
- Make yourself admin on all browsers your child uses and password protect it against changes. If you do this, your child can’t change the search features without your permission.
- If your child has an app account to download games on their phones, set the password for app download approval and do not share it with your child. They won’t be able to download any app without your knowledge.
- Review the operation of any app your child wishes to purchase. Many social media apps such as Kik or Snapchat have an automatic delete feature that removes material within minutes, making it untraceable. Other apps, such as Tumblr, have become well known for explicitly sexual blogs with no filters.
- Be sure to discuss the dangers with your child. While many teens are curious, an internet search can turn up many unwanted results such as child pornography. This usually can’t be removed from your internal memory once it’s been downloaded.
- Read the user’s manual to the cell phone your child has and perform backups of the information frequently. Even if your child has deleted an image or material, you may be able to restore it and monitor your child’s activities.
- Enable cell phone storage on a Cloud system that your child doesn’t have the password to. This will ensure the data is protected against anything they might want to delete, and that you can review it to check in as you desire.
As you can see, there are many steps parents can take to protect their children’s innocence in a digital age. While the information will still be out there, by watching and installing safeguards against your child accessing it, you can help limit their access to harmful pornography.