Together, For A Better Internet

The Internet’s march to be incorporated in every aspect of our lives doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. Can we even imagine what our lives would be like without cyberspace? Not a very pleasant one, for sure! It has been a blessing and elevated the quality of our lives. As with everything in life, things are not as rosy as we would want it to be. This Safer Internet Day, which was celebrated on February 11, let’s vow to not turn a blind eye to the very real dangers cyberspace poses and be more proactive. The Safer Internet Day was initiated by EU SafeBorders and focuses on a relevant cyber issue each year. This year the theme was ‘Together for a better Internet’ and aims to make the Internet a safer place for all, especially, the young and vulnerable. 

The Internet’s popularity among kids and teens can be attributed to its accessibility and ease of usage. According to reports, 60% of kids aged between 3-17 had internet access at home in 2015. The increasing use among this demographic is a source of concern to many parents, and for good reason. The internet has certainly made our life easier with information available at our fingertips and if used wisely, can help in the all-round development of an individual. Cyberbullying, spreading false information, loss of privacy, catfishing, aggravating mental illness, and blackmail are some common drawbacks of internet use. The statistics aren’t very promising with a UNICEF poll revealing that one in three teens have faced cyberbullying, with one in five skipping school because of it. It may seem a herculean task to keep your kids safe with the increased online activity due to smartphones and social apps, but it is possible to reduce the risks. 

The fine line that differentiates the two inverse outcomes depends on how you use the internet. Here are a few tips on how to make your kids Internet-savvy. 

Online safety starts with you

Educating yourself and practicing online safety sets the precedent for your kids. Kids tend to mimic their parents so it’s important to follow what you preach. Data theft and loss of privacy have become very common in the current scenario. Here are a couple of safety measures that you can take up to better protect your system at home.

  • Setting up a Virtual Private Network will protect your family’s location from being tracked.
  • Install antivirus software to keep your system free of viruses and harmful malware.
  • Keep all the systems updated.
  • Use strong and unique passwords.
  • Never download content from untrustworthy sources.
  • Educate your children about phishing attempts by hackers.

Use parental blocks

It’s important to supervise your child’s online activity, especially, in their childhood and early teens. It’s important to teach them the basics of online safety but sometimes, it’s better to be proactive when it comes to young kids. Setting up parental blocks is necessary to ensure that they are not exposed to harmful content even by accident. You can peruse your browser options before buying a program. Also, make sure that the home system is placed in a common area/living room so that you can monitor your kid’s activities when needed. 

Establish a strong communication line

The lack of communication or miscommunication between parents and kids is one of the biggest hindrances in ensuring online safety. It’s not possible to keep our kids sheltered from the Internet but it is possible to maintain trust such that our kids seek us out in case anything undesirable happens online. It’s important to educate your kids about sharing personal information and maintaining online decorum. Everything on the internet stays forever. Chatting online with strangers, illicit content, and obsession with social media can have disastrous consequences. Having open discussions with children rather than prohibiting them opens a gateway of trust that keeps you aware of their online activities from say, online shopping to messaging a relative. It’s important for kids and teens to learn to prioritize their personal safety. It’s never too late to start talking to your kids about safe online behavior.

Online safety can no longer be brushed aside. Parents need to be more proactive when it comes to their child’s online safety. This doesn’t mean that online activity needs to be prohibited, but rather there is a need to establish safety guidelines. A safe, balanced attitude needs to be cultivated at home with the parents leading by example. It is our responsibility to ensure that our kids are better equipped to deal with the complications the Internet throws our way.

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