The digital age allows children to remain continuously connected to the internet and social media and to use technology to more deeply and thoroughly explore and communicate with the world around them. This technology can also provide parents with inexpensive tools to monitor their children’s action and protect them from the ever-expanding unregulated connected world. In the interest of education on the proper use of technology with children, the following tips have been compiled so as to better prepare parents.
Tracking Your Kids’ Location
This is an especially important topic for parents of both young children who have a tendency to wander and of teenagers prone to go out at odd hours and seemingly disappear for lengths of time. While the Internet may allow a child to go “anywhere” on the web, there are ways of using that information as a parent to keep tabs on children and find out what they’re up to.
One useful tool is also one of the most dangerous: social networking sites. Status updates and private messages are often ways of determining where a child is going or where they have been. Of course, proper communication and trust is an important part of the relationship between child and parent, so using this as an alternative for discussion is not recommended except in exceptional circumstances.
For those that are more technologically inclined, there are a wide range of tracking devices and apps that can be used in conjunction with objects like smartphones and smart watches so that parents may keep a closer eye on the physical location of their children
Monitoring Your Kids’ Internet Use
Monitoring Internet usage has become a bit of a hot topic as of late, with parents on both sides of the debate wondering what’s the appropriate amount of vigilance concerning their children online. Freedom and privacy are especially important to children entering their teenage years, which is precisely the time that parents begin to worry more than ever.
While it is recommended to build trust between parents and their children, it is also understandable that certain limitations should be placed on what can and cannot be shared online. To that end, there are a few simple precautions that any parent can take, regardless of their technological proficiency. Placing the computer in a centralized location in the home will put pressure on children to behave while at the monitor. With the threat of a parent looming over unexpectedly at any time, children will think twice before posting anything that could possibly get them in trouble. This has the added bonus if it’s a decision that is seemingly innocuous. The child won’t realize why the computer has been placed where it is and the parent won’t have to face arguments over their methods.
Checking the browser history is another useful tool and isn’t nearly as complicated as it might sound. To put it simply, the browser a child uses to scour the Internet will, by default, keep a record of every site that has been visited. Curious parents can check this history by going into the file settings of the browser. If parents are suspicious of their child’s activities, this should be the first place to visit.
Some of the more technologically advanced programs available for commercial use are key loggers and screen mirrors. While these require more education, they also provide the most monitoring capabilities. Key loggers record every key stroke that is made at a computer, whether it be to type in a web address, an essay, or a message to someone else through a chatting program. Screen mirrors, by contrast, allow a parent to view their child’s computer screen in real-time from a remote computer, as if they were in the same room.
As much information as each of these tools provides, they are also incredibly invasive and will likely destroy and trust that exists between the child and parent if discovered. It is with this in mind that they are recommended only as a last resort. If a parent truly needs either of these to discover what their child is doing on the Internet, then it’s likely indicative of deeper problems in the household.
One interesting strategy put forth by security professionals is to make Internet monitoring less secretive and more challenge oriented. As an example, a good idea is to block certain websites and then explain that they can be unblocked once the child has the technological proficiency to do it themselves. This, in turn, rewards the child for staying informed and understanding the intricacies of the Internet. With children becoming increasingly more competent with computers than their parents, these types of strategies create less of a generational and cultural gap, instead encouraging thoughtfulness and understanding.
Social Media: What Is Appropriate?
While the Internet is an effective medium for research and entertainment, it has also taken a hold in the modern world as the final stop for all things social. Parents would be wise to keep a close eye on their children’s Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace pages as this is often an indicator of their current mood and demeanor.
In the past, children would have to rely on journals or diaries to record their private memos, but today many are more than willing to share this information on the Internet without any provocation. Though it might feel like spying, there is nothing wrong with a parent keeping themselves updated on what their child is going through. It’s important to keep in mind that, while social media is an excellent tool, it is not an excuse for failing to communicate. Keeping an eye on their online presence is good, but educating them on safe Internet practices is even better.
Recent studies have shown that a large portion of children have already begun changing their e-mail addresses and signing up on social media sites under different names. These disguises serve only one purpose: to evade parents. It is for this reason, above all else, that staying connected and informed is primarily done by staying communicative. It is one of the paradoxes of the Internet that the more a parent tries to spy on their child, the more ignorant of their activities they will ultimately become.
Technology has changed the world in many exciting and fantastic ways that are perfect for a developing mind to embrace. However, las with all avenues of knowledge, parents should exercise caution when allowing their children to explore the depths of the Internet. It is a thin line between narrow-minded censorship and proper caution, but the tips above should provide a solid compromise between freedom and protection.