A couple weeks ago I attended a local church meeting on media safety. It was so amazing and I was super motivated to take extra steps to keep my family safe when using technology. There were of course, a few things I already knew how to do, but I learned a couple new tips that I thought were clever and very helpful.
I’ve spent a small amount of time getting our computer, wireless router and other devices set up so they are as safe as possible. This has brought me some peace knowing that I am doing my part to keep my family safe from some of the harmful things that are out there. In doing, so I have realized how important these things are but also that these simple steps can make a big difference.
So lucky you. I’m going to share 8 tips for internet and media safety at home. Teckie posts are not something that you see here much on my blog but I’m feeling pretty passionate about it and I have hopes of helping out another family who might be trying to do their best too.
1. Talk, talk, talk. This is number one because it is the most important thing you can to do keep your kids safe!!
Keep an open conversation with your kids about media safety and what do if they find inappropriate content. The most important thing you can do as a parent and spouse is to have open communication with your family members. It’s not a matter of if your family member see something inappropriate, it is a matter of when they see something inappropriate, that the communication lines need to be open. It can be scary to think about this but it’s something we need to face.
It is so important that you talk to your children (and spouse) about what they can and should do when they come across something inappropriate. You want your children (and spouse) to be comfortable enough to come and tell you that they accidentally saw something online or that a friend showed them something that was inappropriate. In today’s world, it is important to start young. Most children have already been exposed to pornography by the age of 10. Shoot. I don’t like that number. And it’s getting younger and younger. Whether it’s pornography, cyber-bulling, or identity protection, it needs to be talked about. Kids need to know what is appropriate and what is not.
If a family member comes to tell you that they saw something make sure you do not over react! Remain calm. Do not throw all your electronics out the door. You don’t want your child scared or ashamed that they saw these things. They should not be punished. Remember, that we are trying to keep the communication door open. Being exposed can be an accident. Teach them to look away as soon as they see something. That goes for you too! Talk to them about saying no, turning away from wrong things and making sure to tell an adult as soon as possible. Then talk about how to fix or avoid the problem.
2. Keep tabs on your family members and their devices.
Technology is a wonderful thing. It has a great place in this world but it is a sad fact that it is misused in many way. Talk to your family about the good and the ugly. Make sure you know what your kids (and spouses) are up to. Learn who your children’s friends are and what kind of stuff they are up to when they are over at the friends house. Follow your kids on facebook, instagram and twitter. Make sure you know what apps they have on their devices. Children should not be able to download apps by themselves. Check on them regularly and make sure the apps you have downloaded don’t have inappropriate ads. Have your kids use their electronics in a highly visible area in the home. Hang out with them while they are on it. Browse together or play games together. Set up specific areas of the house where it is ok to use technology. I really like the idea of setting up a charging station where all devices go to at night. This keeps the bed room a much safer place. Set well known boundaries and follow them.
3. Establish time limits for Internet usage and limit what sites they are allowed to visit.
Create passwords, user accounts and time limits on your computer. Here’s how for Windows and for Macs. Each user can have different settings. Set reasonable time limits and usage for your children’s ages. My son loves to play certain games on my computer but I don’t want him doing it all day. I have set up his user account so he has a time block on Saturday mornings for his games. This is plenty for him. He knows when his time is and he doesn’t need to pester me through out the week for computer time. If he needs to get on the computer for a homework assignment or a question about what kind of fuel a rocket ship uses then I’m right there beside him.
4. Teach your kids to never give out their personal information without your permission.
Stranger are strangers even on the internet. Make sure that you and your kids don’t give out too much information online. Addresses, phone number, birthdays and full names should all be considered secret. Be wise and make sure your kids understand the dangers also.
5. Use Filters, ad blockers and parental controls.
It’s important to remember that you can’t just set parental controls on your devices and walk away thinking everything is taken care of. You must still stay near and check on family members frequently. But here are some tools we can use to reduce the chance of accidents happening.
-Refer to #3 for setting parental controls on your computers.
-Use anti virus and internet security tools to protect your loved ones and your computer. Here is a review of several different antivirus programs. This programs will not only block and clean up viruses but keep you from accidentally coming upon dangerous sites and nasty sites.
-Ad blockers are awesome. They make websites load faster and get rid of those annoying ads that grab our attention, distract your kids and make your husband uncomfortable. Good bye to those belly shot ads for miraculous weight loss and dating ads of hunky men from your area. Hurray! Here is a tutorial for blocking ads on your computer depending on your browser of choice, and even a way to do it on your iphone’s safari.
6. Smart phones, tablets and Apple Devices.
Did you know that on apple devises you can turn off Safari using the Restrictions settings by going to Settings>General>Restrictions. Set up a 4 digit pass code that’s you’ll remember (that isn’t 1234) and then adjust the settings. You or your children can then use a filtering web browsing app to browse the web. Hello to much more safer browsing. This would be a great tool for an older child who wants a bit of freedom or to look up the word girandole for their homework. I like Norton and AVG. There are free versions.
With the Restriction settings, you can also set what content you will allow on your or your children’s devices. For example music can be set to clean, movies and tv shows can be set to PG and even the purchasing of apps can be set for specific ages. Remember these settings are not fool proof though. You still need to be aware of what’s going on. Keep an eye out. There is a tutorial here.
7. Put a filter on your Wireless Router.
Your router provides wireless internet for all the devices in the home. Did you know you can set up a filter on it as well? Just like you set a filter on your computer, you can have a filter on all the internet accessed from your home router. Woo hoo! This was new to me so I jumped at the chance. I’m super happy about this. I’ve been impressed with Opendns.com. It’s pretty easy to set up. Sometimes the router itself has a program to use or even your internet provider might provide a way for parental controls. Check it out.
But again! remember to talk, talk, talk because your wifi is not the only place your kids will be browsing. They can always go to any hot spot or friends house so remember that nothing is fool proof. Communication, people! Also check your neighbors wireless internet and see if they have passwords set. If not, give them a little hint or help them set it up.
8. Be aware of your own Internet and media habits. Be an example to your children.
Lastly, you need to be a good example. Don’t watch shows or look at sites that you’d be embarrassed about if someone walked in. Change the channel and find something better to watch. There is so much that kids don’t need to be exposed to and you’ll feel better inside too. We get enough of it outside of the home so make your home a safe and comfortable place to be.
Here is a cool site that reviews and rates movies, shows, apps, music, games, websites and books by ages. I’m looking there next family movie night.
That’s it. I hope my tips help you make your home a media safe place to be. Remember communication is the best answer though because no matter what you set up at home your kids will come in contact with it elsewhere.
Talk Talk Talk!!