Thank goodness for technology and the Internet during the pandemic; it has helped us stay connected with loved ones and friends during times of isolation and quarantine; it has helped us continue to purchase groceries and needed items, and it has provided us with breaking news and press conferences daily. Many companies have provided free internet, as well as free hot spots to ensure that we can continue to connect during COVID-19, or that those who were unable to connect prior to COVID have an opportunity.
The downside to technology and the Internet during this pandemic is that children are online even more than before – and safety continues to be a big concern. Here are some tips for protecting your child online.
Keep communication lines open – talk to your kids about the Internet and social media. Explain what is appropriate and not appropriate – and encourage your child to tell a trusted adult if something just doesn’t seem right.
Use parental controls – and be sure to check privacy settings on your child’s social media accounts. Always know your child’s account passwords.
Stay up-to-date on the latest popular social media sites – kids are always one step ahead of parents. Do your homework and know where your kids are hanging out.
Role model kindness and appropriate online communication. Stress the importance of being kind on social media to your child.
Talk to you child about trustworthy sources on the internet. Tell your child to talk to a trusted adult if unsure about anything (or anyone) encountered online.
Identify age-appropriate games and activities and let your child know these activities have your approval. Also let your child know which games and activities do not have your approval.
Make bedrooms a no technology zone – not only for safety reasons, but also because it could seriously affect sleep habits.
Talk to your child about stranger danger – especially online.
While it is important that we all stay connected during this pandemic, we also need to take time to disconnect from devices. Many families are spending more time together and getting back to fun activities like camping and picnics. Make sure to take time away from technology to have fun as a family. Encourage “technology free zones and activities” at home and you can even make it a fun game – have a family challenge to see who can take the longest breaks from technology. Have a prize for the winner! (This game includes the adults!)
“How to Keep Your Child Safe Online While Stuck at Home during the COVID-19 Outbreak.” UNICEF, 16 Apr. 2020, www.unicef.org/coronavirus/keep-your-child-safe-online-at-home-covid-19.
Jodi L. Smith, is a WVU Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development.