For those of us who have children in school, “back to school” is maybe the biggest holiday of the year! Yes, I’m making a joke—but not really! As we work to prepare our kids for school, we also need to prepare them to develop good computing habits, and most importantly, protect them from all the “bad stuff” the Internet has to offer.
This post has been broken into two parts; “Back To School… Finally!” is intended for those who have small children. “Good Computing Habits For Your Teen” is intended for older kids. So let’s get to it.
For younger children, developing good habits and awareness is crucial to keeping your child safe online, along with some tools to make this easier for parents to manage.
1. Educate your children about the Internet, explaining that there are some very good areas, but also some dangerous areas. In my personal experience, having this conversation alone has made my kids more cautious and created awareness. A friend of mine had a terrible experience when his little girl (7 or 8 at the time) searched for “Barbie,” in an effort to watch a Barbie & Friends episode online. Instead, the search results were of graphic nature and stood as a harsh lesson for all in that household.
2. Implement software to help police your children’s activity. Every endpoint security product that I know of has a version which includes “parental control.” Yes, it may be $20 more than the standard edition, but well worth it in this case. Most parental control software can filter out adult sites, unauthorized purchases, privacy layers, website history, and more. It gives you, the parent, control and visibility into what your children are doing online. Windows does have some parental options which have improved over the years, but most people find using a third-party tool designed for this purpose to be more straightforward and feature-rich.
3. Set up your household laptop, for example, in a common area. For us, that area is the family room. Kids get to use the computers while in the presence of adults, which often presents more learning opportunities. It allows for easy adult supervision, as well as tips on how to use the computer—such as how to effectively search. It’s incredible how much you can learn from this—just being in the same room together.
4. Consider using a modern WiFi router that has parental features. Many of the new home routers by companies like Netgear, Linksys, and Belkin have parental features built-in, which is very convenient. If you haven’t upgraded your home WiFi in a while, this may make sense for you. Not only for the parental controls being baked in, but also to improve speed and coverage. Most of these models with the stronger feature-set start at around $79.
5. Lastly, pay attention to all of the devices you have in your household that are “connected.” About a year ago, we upgraded our family TV. Before I even got the boxes broken down for the recycling bin, my son had already connected it to the Internet and was watching YouTube. The same applies to game consoles that have internet connectivity. Tip: be sure to configure your YouTube settings for 12 and under content.
Thanks, and I hope you look forward to Part 2!