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Safeguards for a digitally connected home

5 tips to protecting children online
ost people knowhow to
spot danger on the
streets in the physical
world but, in the 21st
century, parents need
new tools to guard
youngsters against the potential threats in
Given the tidal wave of gadgets, apps and
Web sites flooding homes, schools and general
life, any parent would be hard pressed to find
a way to avoid technology today. And why
should they? Thanks to the Internet, infor
mation has never been more accessible. Oppor
tunities abound for those with access to its
vast stores of digital knowledge. However, the

their developmental needs to experiment and

take risks.
So, some parents, out of desperation, resort
to completely restricting online access to safe
guard their children. But this is not a practical
measure as it can be easily overcome by getting
access to the Internet at school, in the public
hbrary or by the next door neighbours.

reach out to new sources of knowledge and

guidelines for parents and guardians

Parents today have to chart new markers
and new pathways to manage their children
and keep them safe. The good news is, while
there may be unsuitable content on the web,
you can protect youngsters from the potential
Th (vllvwing tips cun help purents uml
guardians guide their children through the rech

cultural experiences are also leaving them vul

nerable to exploitation and harm.

nology minefilds and keep them safe and pro

ductive online.

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Online phonography, cyber-bullying , cyber

stalking, identity theft, hacking and online
gambling are corrupting spots on the online
landscape. A London School of Economics
study found that nine out of ten children
between the ages of eight and 16 have viewed
pornography on the Internet, in most cases,
Mankind's vices have found a new virtual
home. That virtual home now extends into
real homes via the devices we give our children
to learn and to play.
Mind the generational gap

Some parents do not necessarily feel

equipped to help their children to navigate
this new digital world. For digital immigrants,
those who grew up in a pre-Internet era and
adopted technology later in life, the gulf
between their approaches to their technology
versus that of their young charges can be quite
The so-called digital natives, those who
have grown up surrounded by technology, are
more comfortable-and competent-at inter
facing with it. The generational gap in
approach, is widened by a risk-averse culture
where we are more inclined to deny our chil
dren, as opposed to adapting to best meet


1. First educate yourself

Unless you are deeply involved in the tech
nology field, chances are that your children
will always know more about it than you do.
This does not necessarily have to be a bad
thing. Parents need to first make peace with
that fact and understand that it doesn't mean
that all hope is lost. Make the online search
engines your friend. Sites like Google, Bing,
and Yahoo are your launch pad to new knowl
edge. Make a list of all of the technologies
that your children use and aim to understand
at least the basic elements of each one. Educate
yourself on the latest threats facing kids online
(e.g., cyberbullying, sexting, trolling, etc.) and
arm yourself with information that will allow
you to talk intelligently to your child about
managing their digital life.
2. Know what your children like and
One dilemma that pre-dates the Internet
is that parents seldom find interest in what
their children are attracted to. In this Internet
age, the reward for investing the time to find
out what's interesting to children is the oppor
tunity to connect the dots between the online
activities and offline motivations that drive

it. This allows you to be more informed, and
hopefully more practical proactive when dis
cussing online risks and agreeing on rules for
Internet usage.
Sure there are software tools that can help
block content and restrict online access, but
the best safe guard is self-governance. Acti
vating the self-governance requires parents
(and teachers) to have a trusting relationship.
3 Educate your children
Social Networking sites such as Facebook,
1\unblr, Instagram and Twitter are extremely
popular with teens and encourage them to
post personal information as a part of the cul
ture of sharing so prevalent on the web.
Guardians and parents need to discuss and
constantly remind youngsters of the respon
S!bility to be discreet with personal information.
Data such as their full name, mailing address,
telephone number, birthdate, school, travel
plans, or other information that could allow
someone to discover who they are or where
they are should not be casually posted online.
Most social networking sites have privacy set
tings. Familiarise yourself with them and ensure
that no personal information is being unwit
tingly shared with the general public.
4 Set limits for onllne use
The adage "everything in moderation" can
be applied most appropriately to online usage.
Tbe benefits of technology should be balanced
well-thought out boundaries to help in your
child's overall development. Thchnology acoess
is increasingly being tied to learning in the
21st century.
Unreasonable restrictions on Internet acoess
can place children at a real disadvantage at
school. With this in mind, parents should set
guidelines for online research and manage the

time spent on recreational browsing.

Additionally, recreational online access can
be used as a privilege, as opposed to a right.
This gives parents the latitude of revoking
access should the need arise. Keep in mind,
however, that children today have many options
for getting their online fix.
5 lann to ldenHfy signs of online abuse
Despite the best efforts, children may still
end up falling victim to an online trap. For
that reason, parents should remain vigilant
and educate themselves so that they can recog
nise the signs of online trouble or abuse. Par
il es of
ents should always maintain open n
communication with their children and
eucour Uemlo speak up if Uey feel Uueal
ened or targeted. It is in the best interest of
the parents, that they take a proactive role in
creating a safe environment both off and online.
The more things change...
These five points don't guanmtee your chil
dren's safety online, but they certainly can
help you in your efforts. Remember, shutting
off technology access is not a practical option;
adaptation is the only relevant response. Our
children need a technology foundation to cope
with their technology-laden future. The keys
to managing the new digital world are edu
cation and regulation; not isolation and denial.
In fact, it seems the more things change
the more they remain the same. Keeping chil
dren safe online, requires them to be nurtured
and protected offline.
Now more than ever, parents have to work
on the relationship with their children and
model before them the values you wish to see.
At the end of the day, that's the best safeguard
we can give our children in the digital age.