Dad Hack 4 – Protect Your Kids Online
Cyberbullying and Child Predators are Lurking Just Behind Your Cable Modem
How do you protect your kids online?
At this point, it’s probably no secret that I am a fan of technology. I work in IT and have tons of gadgets.
Then it should come as no surprise that my kids are all about tech as well, primarily gaming.
YouTube is a favorite in the house. For me, it’s a tool to educate and promote. For the kids, they watch some YouTubers all the time.
All these things require the internet. Gaming on a PlayStation or Xbox. Playing on the iPad or Nintendo switch. The internet is needed for most of them to work correctly.
Games like Roblox, Among Us, Minecraft, and Fortnite are super popular with lots of kids, and yes adults, playing them.
All the games I just mentioned have a feature that parents should be wary of. They all have the capability to chat with other users of the game.
This blog post is a cautionary tale based on a real event and my acute knowledge of the technology world’s dark side.
My son is very social. He loves to talk to people and won’t miss an opportunity to make a friend. He no longer plays Among Us but did for a while. He would also chat with people on Among Us. (Hold your judgment until you finish reading this blog).
He began chatting with a young girl around his age on Among Us. Within a very short period (less than a day) they took this conversation to text messaging. My son has an iPhone SE because of an incident at school a few years earlier. That’s another blog post entirely. Let’s just say it’s sad what our kids must endure in school these days.
My kids know I will check up on their activities on all devices. My son’s phone and daughter’s iPad are also monitored for what apps they use, where they are, and how long they use them. We do not let our kids use their devices whenever they want. There are rules and restrictions.
There are so many reasons to do this. Child predators and cyberbullying are two of the biggest.
The day after he started this new friendship with a girl from Among Us, I spot-checked his text messages. Sure, enough I saw the out-of-area code text message with no name attached to it. I scan the text messages and see that the girl had sent him a picture. She was a very pretty young girl. First red flag. I’ll get to that in a minute, but it immediately raised all kinds of alarms.
The second red flag was the text that immediately followed her picture that said, “Get a makeover and send me a picture”. Does that sound like something an 11-year-old girl would say to a boy? I didn’t think so either.
I asked my son about the conversation and innocently enough he thought there was nothing wrong with it. I explained to him that this person was not who they claimed to be. I put her picture into Google Image Search and sure enough, this picture was a stock image used all over the internet. How would a preteen boy know this, right?
I explained what was more likely happening. This was probably a child predator looking for new victims to groom. We had a long conversation about some of the dangers that lurk on the internet.
Parents be Vigilant
Predators and cyberbullies are also having fun on Among Us, Minecraft, Fortnite, and Roblox. They have different motivations than my kids have. The internet is a great resource for games, information, work, school, and a lot more. It’s also a very dangerous place. The aforementioned games are not the only games with chat features and not the only places on the internet where very evil people seek out victims.
Cyberbullying and social media are big problems on social media as well. It’s also harder to monitor on TikTok or Snapchat. Games like Madden, Grand Theft Auto, and many more allow online chatting and communication.
Some parents will argue that I am violating my kid’s privacy. They’re not adults and my job is to protect them. I will do whatever it takes to make sure they’re OK. Your job as a parent is to create a safe space for your children, to raise them to be productive citizens, and to provide a better life than the one you have.
You cannot create a safe space if you have no idea what is going on in their digital world.
Dad Hack Number 4 – Keep Your Kids Safe Online
I get asked a lot about how to protect your kids online. Here are a few pointers.
Beyond the monitoring, tracking, and restrictions we have in place for our children’s screen time I also routinely check their activities. I check messages on all apps. I check browsing history. I check pictures and videos taken and downloaded. And I pay attention to their behavior. Changes in behavior are a sign something is off.
Here’s the important part. I am honest with my kids. I tell them I am going to do this and why. The internet is a dangerous place and I just want to make sure they’re safe.
I am not naïve. I know kids are tech-savvy and can hide things which is why I also monitor and approve app installs with the profiles I set up on their devices. So many parents set up devices and never put any parental controls on them.
We limit screen time, especially on school days. It is unhealthy for anyone to stare at a screen for an unlimited amount of time. Devices are locked/blocked at bedtime to prevent any temptation or activity that could be damaging. You could take this a step further and remove the devices from their rooms.
Gaming systems are in public areas of the house, not in their bedrooms. They don’t have TVs in their rooms either.
Again, the key to the success of this is transparency. Be open and honest as to why you are doing these things. Help them understand the dangers that lurk on the other side of your cable modem or 5g connection so they can also recognize and protect themselves. Help them understand too much screen time is extremely unhealthy. They need physical activity. Teach them to talk to you about what they’re doing when they are online. Spend time watching or playing with them when they are online. But be transparent about your motivations.
Summary of How to Protect Your Kids Safe Online:
- Be Transparent with Your Kids
- Monitor Everything
- Spot Check Activity, Especially Messaging and Browsing
- Content Filtering Wherever Possible
- Create Parent/Child Accounts
- Limit Screen Time
- Gaming Systems & Computers Should be in Public Areas of the Home
- Don’t Assume
Our kids deserve to be safe at home, at school, and online. Do your part!