Kelsey Hagemeier, LSW
COVID-19 has brought about many changes to our daily lives. One notable change is the increased use of technology. Online interactions have become the norm in our socially distant reality. Many of us have used technology to work from home, educate our children, and socialize with friends and family who are out of our physical reach during this time.
Online safety for kids has been an ongoing discussion for years, and rightfully so. With recent increases in technology use, this discussion is more important now than ever. According to the United States Department of Justice, kids are spending more time online than ever, creating an increased risk for exploitation from online predators.
Let’s look at some ways to support safe social media use for our kids.
Start by talking: Create an open dialogue with your kids surrounding internet use. Set clear guidelines and expectations for internet use. Let your child know the risks of internet use and help them identify red flags. Encourage your child to contribute to the conversation – aim for more of a discussion and less of a lecture.
Review apps and social media sites: Pay attention to the apps that your child is using. Be especially aware of features including private messaging, public profiles, video chats and user anonymity. Educate yourself before approving or blocking your child’s use of new apps.
Privacy settings and parental control: Many sites have privacy settings that can help protect your child’s information and limit profile access from other users. Make it a priority to increase privacy settings and let your child know their limits. Parental-control settings on devices can be set to block specific sites, enforce screen limits and restrict app downloads. Use these settings to further protect your children and enforce safe internet use.
Supervise children’s internet use: Periodically check their accounts and app use. Keep devices in a common area of the home and consider setting limits for appropriate places and times to use devices. Pay attention to and enforce age restrictions for apps and sites.
Create a safety plan: Educate your children on body safety in the physical and digital worlds. Work with your child to establish what to do when they spot red flags online. Some safety planning steps to consider include immediately showing a parent or caregiver, blocking the unsafe user, reporting the user and updating privacy settings.
Report unsafe users: Unsafe users can be reported directly to moderators on many sites. If exploitation or enticement of a child is suspected, immediately report by calling 911, contacting the FBI at tips.fbi.gov, or filing a report with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678 or report.cybertip.org.
As the use of technology grows in our society, so will our children’s exposure to the digital world. As much as we may want to, it’s nearly impossible to avoid technology use by kids altogether. Empower your kids to use technology in an appropriate manner by following these safety tips. We can work together to minimize risk and create a safe online environment for our children.
Kelsey Hagemeier serves as Youth Fisrt social worker at St. James School in Haubstadt, St. Joseph, Sts. Peter and Paul School in Haubstadt and Holy Cross School in Fort Branch.